top of page

Holy Cross Parish Church

The village of Seis lies in a depression that slopes down from the north and lies between the Laranz Forest to the west, the alpine pasture of Seiser Alm to the east and the Hauenstein Forest to the south, which rises steeplytowards the Schlern.
The first historically documented mention of the village is under the name of ‘Siusis’ in an entry from a book compiled between 982 and 988 to list the donations and privileges of the cathedral in Säben-Brixen. It verifies the exchange of ecclesiastical revenues between Bishop Albuin of Brixen and Bishop Eticho of Augsburg. In 1270 an initial church building – together with the old settlement of Seis – fell victim to a massive avalanche and was buried under a mudflow. The oldest extant house of God in Seis is thus the Church of Mary Help of Christians in the middle of the village.

With the opening of a new road from Waidbruck to Kastelruth and Seis on 19 September 1887 and the resulting surge in tourism, the population of what was originally a decidedly rustic settlement rapidly increased. It became necessary to build a larger church and this project was begun in the mid-1930s. The plans were designed by the architectural office of Amonn & Fingerle, who were active between 1906 and 1940. Construction of the new church in Seis began in 1937. However, the war and post-war periods hindered progress. It was not until 1950 – and only because of the many hours of work contributed by Seis’s inhabitants – that it became possible to consecrate the church in honour of the Holy Cross.

In 1974 Seis am Schlern was made an independent parish. The new layout of the graveyard led to the creation of a new village square. The architect Stefan Rabanser provided the relevant design in 1993. He had the grounds of the graveyard reinforced by a crenellated supporting wall to the south, with the result that the ensemble of graveyard and parish church conveys the impression of a fortified church, a ‘castle of God’ (Gruber), when viewed from the south. The church’s sanctuary was redesigned in 2003, under the direction of architect Dr Albert Torggler, in order to focus churchgoers’ attention more strongly on the Crucifix, which is also why the high altar and side altars were removed.

With its steep gable roof, the church seems to echo the powerful silhouette of the Schlern formation. The nave and the semicircular apse point to the south-east. The facade of the north-west side has been kept very simple. The portal and a lunette window are connected by a framework defined on the wall and a pitched roof extending in front of the portal. A tower concluding in a simple, four-sided spire rises to the west of the church building. A multistorey sacristy has been annexed to the church to the south-west. The architectural ensemble of the church and graveyard additionally includes a chapel in the south-eastern corner of the churchyard as well as two lanterns of the dead.

The church is entered through a loft bay that opens on to the main space through three low arches. This single-aisled church is covered by a low, wooden barrel vault that dominates the space. Its form suggests the upside down keel of a ship. Simple pilasters painted in anthracite grey and corbels form the supports for the ribs of the vault and divide the nave into five bays.

Apart from a few exceptions, an ovoid arch form has been selected for the windows and niches. This also applies to the arch that separates the nave from the apse. The apse is lit from the sides by two pairs of windows and thus possesses a markedly greater abundance of light than the nave, with its row of large windows to the east and the small, round windows placed high on the western wall.

The windows were designed in 1995 by the artist Edith Rier, who lives in Kastelruth. On the eastern side, they symbolise the Sermon on the Mount as well as the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage. The pairs of windows in the apse depict Mary Help of Christians to the east and the Cross and Resurrection in the west. The images in the four round windows symbolise the Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Orders.

In the centre of the apse – and thus at the focal point of the sacred space – stands the Crucifixion group by Rudolf Geisler-Moroder (1919–2001). It formerly crowned the altar until this was moved in front of the apse arch when the church was modified in keeping with the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council. This depiction of the Crucified Christ with the Lamentation of Mary and John is placed before a painting by the Bruneck artist Albert Mellauner (b.1947). In this way, the Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross is to be outshone by the hope of Resurrection.

The life-sized figures in the niches of the wall surrounding the apse arch were created by the sculptor Vinzenz Mussner, from the Val Gardena. They once stood above the removed side altars and present an image of Mary Immaculate which emphasises the Heart of Mary and an image of St Joseph. The latter is depicted with a saw as the attribute of his profession as a carpenter, and this simultaneously identifies him as a saint for the protection of workers.

The front of the tabernacle represents the resurrected Christ’s encounter with the disciples
at Emmaus. The bronze reliefs were created by the sculptor Eraldo Fozzer (1908–1995).

The division of the front of the free-standing altar into 12 vertical sections symbolises not just the Twelve Tribes of Israel gathered round the Eucharistic Table but also the Twelve Apostles. The expansive branches of the tree in copper repoussé create the roof beneath which everyone comes together. The front of the ambo presents three ears of grain in copper repoussé. These symbolise the seeds of the Word of God falling on fertile soil. The pulpit is found on the western wall and is entered by way of the sacristy annex.

The baptismal font created in 1989 by the artist Martin Rainer (1923–2012), from Brixen, stands in the eastern niche of the wall under the organ
loft. The boss on the lid of its copper repoussé basin has an image of the Lamb of God, who serves as the point of origin for the Four Rivers of Paradise or, alternatively, the Four Rivers of Life. The four fish along the edge of the lid symbolise Christendom, which nourishes itself at these rivers. The painted decoration of the niche was created by Albert Mellauner.

As a counterpoint to Baptism, the figure of a Mother of Sorrows (Pietà) was placed in the niche in the western wall under the loft. The polychrome sculpture is from the 17th c. and is presumably a Baroque copy of a Gothic original.

The Stations of the Cross, with their fine reliefs, were created by Vinzenz Mussner, from the Val Gardena, and were donated in 1961 by the children of Ewald and Klara Andresen (USA) in memory of their parents. The parish church received a new organ in 1993. This two-manual instrument with 18 stops was built by Johann Pirchner, from Steinach in Tyrol. The bells of the 42 m tower were cast in 1962 by the Grassmayr foundry in Innsbruck and were solemnly consecrated by Auxiliary Bishop Heinrich Forer on 18 November 1962.

A modest stone tablet gratefully commemorates the builders of the church, the three curates
August Mussner, Franz Elsler and Paul Zambelli: between 1937 and 1968 they accomplished a task that was surely not simple.

Quelle: Die Kirchen und Kapellen der Pfarreien Kastelruth und Seis am Schlern. Kunstverlag Peda Gregor e.K., Passau. Peda-Kirchenführer 2021

bottom of page