val d'ega

Churches & chapels in the Dolomites

Churches & chapels in the Val d’Ega

A land of prayer houses

A god-fearing land and people: there is an incredible number of churches and chapels to be found in every village and hamlet of South Tyrol, and the Val d'Ega is no exception!

The parish church of Nova Ponente, a Gothic building dating from the 15th century, has an impressively beautiful sandstone cladding. The inscription in the choir vault gives its date of origin: the cornerstone was laid on 5 July 1455 by Pastor Johannes Steel. Below the inscription is the coat of arms of the Diocese of Trento with the eagle, along with that of the then Bishop Georg Hack with its thin branch, also chosen as the heraldic symbol of the municipality of Nova Ponente.

The building was completed in sections, as suggested by the differences in the foundations and the sandstone cladding. Construction work was not completed until 1498, with the church consecrated on 16 September of the same year. In order to imagine it in its pure and original form, the new sacristy at the northeast corner and the organ loft with its outside staircase must be ignored. The interior of the church was vastly improved by the most recent renovation in the summer of 1975. The two neo-Gothic altars date from 1900, with a new organ installed in 1976.

Of particular note in the church are the four old relief panels on the high altar, showing the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation at the Temple and the Death of the Virgin. The panels are from a famous large triptych, created around 1420 by the Master Hans von Judenburg for Bolzano’s Parish Church, as was the group of the Visitation on the wall of the choir. The main figures on the high altar – Our Lady of the Rosary and the church’s two patron saints - are beautiful works by the Innsbruck sculptor Dominikus Trenkwalder from around 1900. The relief figures of St. Barbara and St. Catherine as well as the relief panel of the Visitation, also on the choir walls, date back to around 1500. The sandstone pulpit from the early 16th century is held by Karl Atz in his “History of Art from Tyrol and Vorarlberg” to be one of the most beautiful of its kind in the entire land.

Old relief medallions of the mysteries of the rosary are inserted into the neo-Gothic rosary altar; the altarpiece was created by Franz Unterberger. Franz Haider’s beautiful nativity figures can be seen at Christmastime on this altar: his figurines and statues of saints are to be found throughout the Reggelberg area and he was a long-time resident of Monte San Pietro. The bell tower is for the most part much older than the present-day church. It dates back to the Romanesque era; inside can clearly be seen two rows of coupled arched windows that were later walled up. The tower formerly belonged to the old parish church of St. Benedict, documented as early as 1265. Today’s cupola was added in 1793 after lightning badly damaged both the tower and the church roof.

Another special feature of the church is that the pews have brass plaques, some with a rune-like mark next to the occupant’s name. These are the old house and farm marks of Nova Ponente. Each farm would use its mark to identify tools, grain sacks, logs and the like that were offered for sale. Many such marks can also be seen painted with red ochre on the outer walls of the church, now faded on account of the wind and rain. The impressive war memorial (1967) on the northern wall of the cemetery is by the South Tyrolean sculptor Martin Rainer, who was in 1976 awarded the Walther von der Vogelweide prize.

The devious people of Fiemme

The people of Nova Ponente tell the following story about the construction of their church. The large new church turned out to be much more expensive than expected and the local community ran out of funds when the building was only half completed. Strangely, in their moment of need, they turned to their neighbours in Fiemme, with whom they were in fact engaged in fierce boundary disputes.
The people of Fiemme thus deigned to help out the villagers of Nova Ponente with a crock of gold: but they dictated the conditions and of course took full advantage of the plight of their rivals. They demanded as surety the Corno Bianco and the Corno Nero with all the surrounding forests and pastures below the Pala di Santa mountain. Moreover, the debtors had to swear an oath to return the gold to Fiemme within a certain time, specifically before the evening bells on St. Lucian’s Day. If they missed the deadline, they would forfeit the land and the borrowed gold. The people of Nova Ponente nevertheless agreed, as their new church was dear to their hearts, but they ultimately paid dearly for the loan. With great difficulty they amassed the gold upon expiry of the agreed number of years. For safety’s sake they set out on the eve of St. Lucian’s Day in order to arrive in good time. Once they had crossed the pass, night fell and so they went with the gold to an inn and decided to complete the last part of the journey the following morning. The people of Fiemme heard of this: it annoyed them greatly that they would now have to return to the people of Nova Ponente the fine lands given in surety. Greed thus drove them to play a nasty trick upon their neighbours. Instead of ringing the evening bells at two o’clock in the afternoon, as was usual, they rang the bells at two o’clock the previous night. It was as simple as that. The Nova Ponente contingent were left sitting in the inn, unable to deliver the gold on time. The people of Fiemme regained their gold and could not be moved from the pledged forests and pastures.
Location: Nova Ponente
Opening times: open daily.

The Chapel of St. Agatha stands on a wooded hill in complete seclusion and silence. It remains unknown why it exists in such a remote place. It is speculated that there was a prehistoric settlement on this site, while the legendary Kegelberg hill and old mining tunnels can be found nearby.
The building itself is of Romanesque origin, with the later extensive modifications showing ostensibly Gothic elements. The beautiful, stone-framed pointed-arch portal dates from that time, with its figurines of saints, grapevines and a zigzag band in the ogee, with a rod that ends to the left in a root and to the right in a shovel.
The church interior underwent major renovation in the 17th century: the simple sandstone pulpit and richly carved altar date back to that time. Sadly, the free-standing statues were stolen by art thieves. The altarpiece by Orazio Giovanelli, showing St. Agatha and St. Anne with Jesus and Mary, dates back to 1619. Remains of old murals can also be seen on the church. The façade probably shows St. Christopher with the infant Jesus and scenes from the life of the patron saint, while inside parts of a nativity scene are visible.
Location: Nova Ponente
Opening times: The church is closed; the key is kept at the Unterkofelhof farm and may be collected from there.
Tip: The Unterkofelhof is an attraction in its own right. The kitchen and basement possess fine old vaults, while a carved inscription allows the perfectly preserved panelling to be dated back to 1559. The building is much older: the Unterkofelhof is mentioned in 1332 in connection with the church.

The Chapel of St. Helena is particularly impressive on account of its rich frescoes, a major work of the Bolzano school of painting from around 1400. Art historians state that these are closely related to the murals in the Parish Church of Terlano and the Church of St. Catherine in Aica by Fiè. The Niederthor crest on the triumphal arch strongly suggests that the painting of St. Helena – like that in Terlan – was commissioned by the noble Niederthor family. Concealed behind paint for a long time, the coat of arms was once more revealed in 1885 and fully restored in 1938.
The outer walls feature images of St. Helena, St. Christopher and a crucifixion group on the façade, while on the south wall towards the apse there are representations of Mary with the infant Jesus and the three Holy Virgins, Catherine, Barbara and Margaret.
Inside the church, vaulted frescoes in the nave show the four evangelists with their respective symbols, each with an excerpt from his gospel. In the apse Christ appears enthroned as judge, surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. The series of the twelve apostles below was partially destroyed during a subsequent extension of the windows. The triumphal arch points in the direction of the nave to the story of Cain and Abel, while the intrados depicts scenes from the Creation. The side walls of the nave feature images from the life of the Mother of God and Jesus’s childhood: the Annunciation, the Visit of Mary to Elisabeth, Mary and Joseph, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation at the Temple and the Flight into Egypt. On the west wall opposite the altar are St. Helena, St. Sebastian, a proclamation and the Bishops Ulrich and Wolfgang.
The church is Romanesque in its basic features and probably goes back to the 12th century. The small, rough stone relief to the far right of the façade dates from the 14th century. In 1410 the church was re-consecrated following completion of the painting. In 1500 the tower was given its wide pointed-arch window; the deeper-lying, coupled round-arched windows were bricked up. The altar structure dates back to the first half of the 17th century; the altarpiece is signed “J. G. Plazer 1723”.
The Church of St. Helena stands, according to legend, on silver ore. An ancient tradition tells of mining activities in the immediate vicinity of the church: G. Innerebner lists the church hill below the prehistoric settlements as a probable place of worship and orientation.
A detailed description and interpretation of the frescoes appears in the colour guide “St. Helena near Nova Ponente” SB 21 (M. Frei).
Location: Nova Ponente
Opening times: open daily.

The first church in Nova Levante is said to have been built in the 11th century. According to legend, the first settlers lived in the place known as “Im Loch” and on the “Zischgl” hill, where they intended to build their church. Ultimately, however, they preferred to convert the old pagan temple that stood where the present-day church now stands.
The church first comes to light in 1298: in 1365 a “Chapel of St. Ingenuinus”, now the patron saint of the church, is mentioned. Alterations to the church from the first half of the 18th century can be detected.
A new church, built between 1827 and 1828, was completely demolished in 1965 and with the exception of the tower replaced by a new building. Today’s parish church, of modern construction with a low aisle under a gabled roof, was consecrated in May 1967 after a construction period lasting two years.
The 37-metre high church tower is the village’s oldest existing structure. The fundament dates from the 13th century; in 1741 the tower was replaced from the belfry upwards. The tower’s octagonal top and onion dome date from 1741.
Location: Nova Levante
Opening times: open daily.

The chapel, dedicated to Saints Roch and Sebastian, stands on a green hill not far from the village centre. The church was built between 1662 and 1666 but consecrated only decades later, in 1697. Roofed with wooden shingles, the church has a round apse, barrel vaults and segmental arch windows. The interior contains Baroque works from the 17th century, namely the altars, pulpit, sculptures and paintings.
Location: Nova Levante
Opening times: the chapel is not open to the public.

The Church of St. Joseph stands on the “Moartalwiese” meadow; it was built in 1897 by the “Association for Alpine Hotels”. In the years prior to the First World War the church was the venue for daily mass during the summer; the management of the “Grand Hotel Karersee” even appointed a private hotel chaplain. In 1976 the parish of Nova Levante acquired the church and thoroughly restored and enlarged it, so that today it can hold up to 200 people. The renovated chapel was consecrated on 18 June 1983.
Location: Lago di Carezza
Opening times: open daily.

Initially dedicated to Saints Peter and James, then to St. Peter and only later to Saints Peter and Paul, the Parish Church of Collepietra is first mentioned in 1322; the tower foundations originate from this period. The pointed-arch main portal with its star-shaped vault dates back to the first half of the 15th century. The previous Romanesque apse was replaced around 1664 by the current three-sided choir. The artistically precious Stations of the Cross date back to 1747. The Collepietra frescoes were created around 1794 by the artist Karl Johann Henrici from Silesia.
A notable feature of the present-day choir is a small sandstone figure of St. Peter. Six bells hang in the 35-metre high, 15th century tower. On the occasion of his pastoral visit on 6 December 1964, Bishop Heinrich Forer suggested expanding the church interior. The foundation stone was finally laid on 4 November 1984, when the newly cast, 1380-kg bell was also consecrated. The sculptor Friedrich Gurschler from Parcines was commissioned with the realisation of the altar, the baptismal font and the lectern (ambo) in sandstone. The altar shows the Lamb removing the sins of the world; the font shows the working of the Holy Spirit in both nature and the supernatural; while the ambo depicts the symbols of the four evangelists. Peter Fellin, a renowned artist from Merano, was commissioned to paint the large altarpiece in oil on canvas. The image represents the Holy Trinity with the Virgin of Mercy, and the Catinaccio and Sciliar massifs and Collepietra at the bottom. The tabernacle, the work of Kusstatscher and Ranzi, is a gift of the Bolzano cathedral parish. The glass windows, by the Tyrolean glass painting workshops in Innsbruck, were drawn by Professor Widmoser and painted by the artist Ulrike Peer Huber from Termeno. The doors are of chestnut and the pews of elm wood. The Stations of the Cross were carved by the academic sculptor Jakob Oberhollenzer from San Giacomo in the Valle Aurina. The church’s patron saints, Peter and Paul, were carved by Matthias Resch from Collepietra. The steep terrain permitted space to be found in the basement for the municipal museum and a Chapel of the Resurrection.
The works meant that the cemetery had to be extended northwards; the war memorial was also redesigned. The organ was constructed in 1992. The cemetery, magnificently maintained and featuring artistically forged crosses, is one of the most beautiful in South Tyrol.
Location: Collepietra
Opening times: open daily.

  • Madonna di Pietralba/Maria Weissenstein
    Parish Church Monte S. Pietro in summer
    St. Agatha chapel at Nova Ponente under the Rosengarten/Catinaccio
    Interior of the pilgrimage church Maria Weissenstein
    Frescos St. Helena Chapel in Nova Ponente
    Exterior view of the pilgrimage church Maria Weissenstein
    Chapel of St. Sebastian under the snowy Latemar
    Church Tower Nova Levante/Welschnofen in winter
    Madonna di Pietralba
    Parish Church Nova Ponente with view on Latemar
    Church of St. Josef at Carezza under the Rosengarten | © TV Welschnofen
    Pilgrimage site of Madonna di Pietralba
    Chapel St. Helena Nova Ponente