Every year in June, big fires are lit on the hills and slopes in South Tyrol and therefore also along the Wine Road.
Image gallery: Sacred Heart Fires
On the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost resp. 10 days after the Feast of Corpus Christi, a breathtaking spectacle enchants the warm summer nights in South Tyrol. The traditional "Sacred Heart Fires" (Herz-Jesu-Feuer, in German) are lit on the slopes to remember the pledge given to the Heart of Jesus in 1796 AD. It was then that the French invaded the small country, which had long been spared from the chaos of war of the time. Faced with the imminent danger, the deeply believing population entrusted the country to the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" and went into battle.
The French forces were unexpectedly defeated by the Tyrolean troops thanks to - in their opinion - heavenly support. In 1809, Andreas Hofer renewed the vow before the fight against the French and the Bavarians. Hofer's troops won once again, that time at the Bergisel, and the Sacred Heart Sunday became a significant holiday. The custom of the fires, however, was nothing new: For centuries, also in Tyrol, midsummer fires were known. These days around the beginning of summer were regarded as the most favourable time for gathering herbs and later as a so-called "Lostag" in connection with farm rules.
Especially after WWI, when the Austrian region of South Tyrol became part of the Kingdom of Italy, the Sacred Heart Fires became a symbol for Tyrolean customs. And still today, the "Sacred Heart Fires" - mainly made of religious symbols such as crosses or hearts - light up the slopes of the mountains at this special weekend in June. The head-high bonfires are lit in the twilight - under high security to prevent forest fires, of course. Along the Wine Road the fires can be seen e.g. from San Paolo Appiano when they illuminate the sky above Mt. Mendola and Mt. Penegal.