Culture | Religion

Religious life of the Walser and the people from Valais

The Walser were pobably even more exposed to nature as their ancestors in the primal homeland: cold, storm, snow and avalanches in winter; dryness and drought in summer. People were needed that could stand up against this challenge. They took this strength and support from the faith that had already been practiced by their ancestors.

The first editor of “Wir Walser”, Ernst Schmidt compared this mentality with the old Greeks. This similar tenor to their home land may have caused the Walser to remain in mental and religious contact with Valais once they migrated.

With the Holy Theodul, the Walser found a memorable and graphic figure to identify with. Further, they worshiped the Holy Nikolaus and Holy Mauritius. The basilica in St. Maurice still exerts influence today.

With pilgrimage, the contacts to the original homeland remained more concrete and individual. Often they lasted many days demanding enormous physical exertions. Reasons for such a pilgrimage were numerous: to make good one’s promise, a vow, to thank or general religious or traditional motives.

Such thoughts are said to be proven in certain relationships between Valais and Northern Italy. People from Ornavasso would pilgrimage to Glis for centuries. It is obvious that they would pass through their home community Naters on the way. On 8 September, the parish Saas-Fee celebrates its chapel “zur Hohen Stiege” and people from Macugnaga still take part in this.  After World War II the number of participants was especially large. People from Pomatt pilgrimaged for one week starting in Münster where they met relatives. Even further and harder was the challenge for those coming from Bosco-Gurin who often joined people from Pomatt. They had to perform the additional strain of crossing the steep Furka. The pilgrims mostly arrived in June. First they visited the chapes “Heiligkreuz” in Binntal moving downward the valley to the chapel “Zen Hohen Flühen” near Mörel and finally they reached the first large church in Glis. A few more days later the hills of Sitten and the cathedral in the city and Valeria greeted.

There were not only contacts to the original homeland. They were intensive between the Walser. The churches, chapels and altars in the Walser villages are often decorated with “Walser Saints”. Relicts from the churches in Sitten were sought after signs for the religious connection with the original homeland. Walser in the further away villages mostly preferred Walser chapels out of economic reasons. These places later functioned as places of pilgrimage. Like this, Walser pilgrimaged to the Holy Theodul in Davos up to the 18th century. In 1730, the municipal code in Graubünden reminds of the ancestors from Valais and declares the days of the Holy Joder and Holy Anton as public holiday. The pilgrimage to the Holy Theodul from Vorarlberg to Sitten remained alive up to the 18th century.

(Text taken from Josef Gunter in “Die Walser, ein Arbeitsheft für Schulen”, publishing house Wir Walser, 3rd volume, 1998)

region selection
Use this portlet to restrict the articles to the regions they were assigned to. Regions that do not have any articles assigned are grayed out. Selecting all or no regions makes all articles appear in the result set.

Berner Oberland
Verbania im Piemont
Vercelli im Piemont
Vorarlberg und Tirol
No Filtering available since all articles in the current context belong to the same regions.