To the healing water of the Maria Larch Chapel
Ascent359 mDistance12.1 kmHighest point869 mDuration2:30 h
Maria Larch is many things: first and foremost a wonderful 300-year-old place of power in the Hall-Wattens region. But Maria Larch is much more. It is a place of pilgrimage located away from busy villages or settlements in the middle of the forest. A forest path leads to this idyllic place between Gnadenwald and Terfens on the Gnadenwald plateau. To the north, the imposing Karwendel massif towers above, to the south, the hiking trail repeatedly offers magnificent views of the Inn valley. The path to Maria Larch is also a well-known and much-travelled pilgrimage route: the Way of St. James. No wonder, then, that the Maria Larch pilgrimage church has been visited by numerous pilgrims since 1698.
And there is another important reason for the popularity of Maria Larch near Gnadenwald. The healing spring there, which gushes out of the baroque well house, is said to have cured the mute girl Maria Jenewein of her suffering in the 18th century. Since then, the water has been regarded as an invigorating drink. It is dextrorotatory water in a place of power that could not be more impressive. Many people come here to draw water for themselves. Out of respect for it, it is an unwritten law to serve an offering, whatever it may be. For one should approach this special place of power with reverence and gratitude.
It was Magdalena Bogner, a farmer’s wife from the Spieltenner Farmstead in Schlögelsbach who set the ball rolling. Every time she set off for the village of Terfens she felt drawn to a specific larch tree where she prayed. When she told her story to the hermit of St. Martin in Gnadenwald, Johann Weiss, in 1665, he made a clay statue of the Virgin Mary for her to attach to the tree. She took the precious gift home and her husband placed it in a niche next to the larch tree. A small canopy protected the statue from the rain and a small block of wood was laid down on the ground, making it more comfortable for people to kneel and pray. More and more people came to Maria-Lärch to pray to God. A timber chapel was soon erected, which was replaced by a stone building not long after. The building was enlarged in 1718. Joseph II abolished pilgrimages and the sacred statue was taken to Terfens. In 1796 the chapel was re-opened and the statue reinstalled. The pilgrimage church was renovated in the early 1990s and has become quite well known in the German-speaking region.
Magdalena Bogner, farmer's wife of the Spieltennerhof in Schlögelsbach was the initiator. On her way to Terfens, she always felt drawn to a particular larch and prayed there. When she informed the benefactor of St. Martin in Gnadenwald, Johann Weiß, of this in 1665, he himself made a statue of the Virgin Mary out of clay, which she was to attach to this larch. She brought the honourable gift home and her husband placed it in a niche near the designated larch tree. A narrow roof protected the image from falling rain and a narrow block was placed on the ground so that people could kneel more comfortably while praying.
Soon other people were also worshipping at Maria-Lärch. Shortly afterwards, a wooden chapel was built, which was replaced by a stone one only a few years later. This was enlarged in 1718. From 1724, a hermitage was also connected to the little church. Joseph ll. abolished the pilgrimage and the object of worship came to Terfens. The chapel was reopened in 1796 with Mary brought back. At the beginning of the 1990s, the little pilgrimage church was restored and has become very well known in German-speaking countries.
The place of power consists of an ensemble of three buildings: the pilgrimage church, the adjacent well house with the healing spring and the small apparition chapel a little further west - this is where the larch is said to have once stood.
The Apparition Chapel is a plain 19th century building with a round-arched opening and groined vault, and a wrought-iron gate. The chapel is not, as erroneously assumed, the site of the apparition.
After the miraculous healing of Maria Jenewein and the apparition of Our Lady at the larch tree, it had become customary for pilgrims to take splinters of wood from the apparition tree near the church and, when it had been removed for safety reasons, from the surrounding larch trees. The wood splinters were considered a popular, lucky amulet. Around 1719, Christoph Weinhart, the owner of the forest above the Apparition Chapel, had iron rails hammered around the trunk of a larch tree along the path, which had also been sawn down by pilgrims, and had a field chapel built. The oil painting in the chapel shows the incident with Maria Jenewein as she herself described it to the painter.
Directly on the path to the south-east below the Chapel of Grace stands the so-called "water chapel", a building from around 1720, with stuccoed fruit garlands inside. The fountain bowl made of red Hagau marble also dates from the time of construction. The statue of St. Florian was stolen years ago, but was recovered and has since been replaced by a copy.
The dextrorotatory water that flows from the fountain in the water chapel is said to have healing powers that have not yet been scientifically proven. Nevertheless, numerous believers from near and far regularly fetch the "healing" water.
It is not only the water that speaks for this place of power: Prof. Jörg Purner, a radiesthesist (radiesthesia is the ability of people to perceive earth rays with the help of pendulums and other means), has determined an energy field for the interior of the church that radiates a special uplifting energy, which has a positive effect on the person who enters the chapel. It is an undisputed fact that places of pilgrimage have often arisen in places that were already chosen by our pagan ancestors as special places for their cultic acts.
Way of Reflection:
On 22 October 2000, in the presence of former Bishop Dr. Reinhold Stecher, the "path of contemplation" to Maria Larch was inaugurated. It leads from the parish church via the Schmiedwegl and the old Larchweg to the place of pilgrimage and its stations were designed by local artisans.
Since 1718, when the deaf-mute girl Maria Jenewein was cured of her suffering by the dextrorotatory water, countless people have made the pilgrimage to Maria Larch to fill canisters, bottles and other containers with this special drinking water. Pilgrims even find their way to this place of power from Italy and Bavaria. In addition to the healing effect on the human organism, there are many other myths surrounding this special water. Flowers are said to last longer with it, pond water no longer gets algae. Even after many hours and days, Maria Larch water does not taste stale, which is why many campers fill up their water supplies there before starting their holidays. However, it has not been scientifically proven.
Even more miracles
There is also a report of a child who had been to the doctor all the time because of open feet, but there was no improvement. Until he bathed in the water of Maria Larch and became healthy. Or the pain-stricken man who had sat down on a bench in front of the fountain in front of the queue of people and the pain in his legs had improved after a short time. Whereupon he had then fetched water regularly and at some point had been free of complaints.
It is irrelevant whether the water actually has a healing effect or whether faith alone is involved in these miracles: it is undisputed that a special aura emanates from Maria Larch and its healing spring. The many votive tablets and pictures bear witness to this or are listed in the miracle book kept in the Terfens parish archives.
Even when the chapel was closed as a result of the Josephine reforms and the miraculous image was transferred to the Terfens parish church, the faithful continued to pray to Our Lady. Instead of the image of grace, an image of Mary Help of Christians was placed in the chapel. After the death of Emperor Joseph in 1790, all reforms were reversed and the place of pilgrimage was ceremoniously reopened in 1796. About a hundred years later, the image of mercy was also transferred back to Maria Larch.
The tree is closer to man than we realise today: it stands upright, grows, passes away, has its spring, autumn, winter and blossoming. In the root lie the origins of all things and of being. The Celts and Germanic tribes have always appreciated this, which is why trees in particular had a special meaning for them. But the Greeks and Romans also cultivated a certain tree cult. In Christianity, this worship was dismissed as paganism and forbidden.
The name Maria Larch is derived from "Maria Lärch" in the Gnadenwald. If you think back to the middle of the 17th century, you can imagine how dangerous it was to profess nature worship, which was neither desired nor allowed by the omnipresent and powerful church. One very quickly got the reputation of being a witch in those times. Nevertheless, there were apparently people whose tree faith was so deep that they remained unimpressed by the threats. The farmer's wife of the Spieltennerhof, Magdalena Bognerin, looked up to a large larch with love and reverence.
In Tyrol there were many such sacred trees that enjoyed love and veneration in the popular consciousness. Many of the traditional pilgrimage sites can be traced back to a tree. Tree and source go hand in hand. A mighty tree must of necessity grow near a spring, for it needs over a thousand litres of water a day to sustain itself. In the course of time, the veneration of the tree was transferred to the cult of Mary or a saint. It is obvious that Marian legends cannot be linked to trees, at least not in the early phase of Christianity. The first Christians would have rejected the association of the holy family with a tree; any kind of tree worship was abhorrent to the Jewish prophets and was far too reminiscent of the pagan ideas of the Greeks and Romans. Wherever a Christianised tree legend has been handed down, one can assume that one is on the site of a pre-Christian sanctuary.
Countless legends and stories entwine around the fine and serene larches: They are the resting and dancing place of those forest fairies who show the way to the lost, who gladly stand by any good person. This character made the larch one of the most popular medicinal plants of the past: the resin was used in the Middle Ages for lung and urinary problems, as an ointment for wounds and as a plaster; it stimulates circulation, disinfects and loosens mucus. A resin ointment helps with rheumatic pains, lumbago and neuralgia, it draws pus and accelerates healing. As a chest ointment it is recommended for coughs and bronchitis, internal use depends on the dose and can be irritant or curative.
Maria Larch is particularly popular for romantic weddings, baptisms or wedding anniversaries.
From the beginning of May to the end of October, a Holy Mass is held every Thursday at 7 pm. A Corpus Christi procession leads to Maria Larch every year in early summer.