Through the Halltal to the natural jewel Issanger
Ascent935 mDistance13.5 kmHighest point1672 mDuration5:00 h
This very special place in the Hall Valley - in the middle of the Karwendel Nature Park - was not chosen for nothing as one of our powerful places. To reach this place of power, you have to venture into a rugged, impressive valley. The way into the Hall Valley is exhausting and it is definitely a bit of a stretch. But it is all the more beautiful when reaching the destination after about two hours: The Chapel of St. Magdalena, a former monastery, was built in this wonderful surrounding, amidst a forest glade.
Even in earlier times people knew about the unique effect of some places. By the way, a proper mountain inn is right next to the chapel. A place where mind, body and soul are in harmony. Since 2012 the former toll road has been closed to motor vehicles - today hikers and chamois enjoy a car-free Hall Valley. For those who cannot or do not want to go without a shortcut by car, a taxi service is offered too.
History of origins of St. Magdalena in the Hall Valley
In 1441 the first monastery was built, as well as a chapel in honour of St. Rupert. However, the "Forest Brothers", as this monastic association was called, only stayed in the Hall Valley until 1447. In 1448 two nuns, who lived according to the rules of the Augustinian order, moved into the monastery in the Hall Valley. And so, despite the harsh climate, the monastery experienced a period of prosperity at the end of the 15th century. At the beginning of the eighties of the 15th century a new building was erected. In 1494 the convent housed 24 sisters and a chaplain. In 1495 the later Emperor Maximilian I issued a special letter of protection to the monastery.
Monastery complex with adjoining little church and farm building
The church has neither a visible structure outside nor a tower. Choir and nave are of equal width. Inside, the vault carries the star ribs with round keystones on octagonal wall consoles. The vault painting in the choir shows the year 1486, which probably indicates the year of completion of the building. The reason why the place is called Saint Magdalena is probably due to the fact that in 1490 the church consecration day was moved to the day of Mary Magdalene (celebrated on July 22) by the prince bishop of Brixen. The reason for the postponement of the church consecration day could be that Magdalena, daughter of a wealthy citizen of Hall (Georg Perl) had entered the monastery in 1486. Georg Perl donated 20 Marks Berner annually so that his widowed daughter could live in the monastery together with his granddaughter, also named Magdalena. Another reason could be that St. Magdalena is one of the most important mountain saints besides St. Rupert, St. Nicholas and St. Barbara.
The sisters gradually moved away from the monastery (partly to the monastery St. Martin in Gnadenwald) and consequently the house was completely abolished in 1566. The monastery decayed rapidly and only the church was preserved by the Haller Saline. The former convent building now houses a country inn. The old brick cellar of the monastery, which served as a refuge from avalanches or a storage place for food, still exists today. The church is still in good condition. It was restored in 1946, 500 years after its first consecration. Every year the Patrocinium is celebrated on the Sunday closest to St. Magdalene's Day in June.
The farm building located south of the church was part of the monastery complex and was totally renovated and saved from decay in 2004/2005 (mixed construction with gabled roof). The wooden threshing floor and the barrel-vaulted stable are now used for events.
The winged altar in the St. Magdalen’s Chapel, the present-day war memorial
The late-Gothic winged altar from the 2nd half of the 15th century originates from the St. Magdalena church in the Hall Valley and was moved to the St. Magdalen’s Chapel in Hall in 1923. It was probably designed in the Innsbruck workshop by the painter Ludwig Konraiter. The Madonna figure in the central panel is flanked by the figures of St. Margaret (left) and St. Catherine (right). The insides of the wings bear paintings of the Marian cycle (Annunciation, Visitation, Adoration of the Magi and Death of the Virgin). The predella shows the birth of Christ, the predella wings depict St. Barbara and St. Agnes. In colloquial speech Margaret, Catherine and Barbara are called the three "Holy Tyrolean Maids". Saint Barbara is represented with her attribute the tower, Saint Margaret with the dragon and Saint Catherine with the wheel.
The foundation of St. Magdalena is closely connected with salt mining in the Middle Ages. Several legends can be traced back to the discovery of the salt deposits in the Hall Valley in the 13th century. One of them tells us that in the 13th century (1275) knight Nikolaus von Rohrbach was travelling in the Hall Valley where hunters told him that they had observed red deer eagerly licking a stone. Soon he realized that the stone indeed tasted salty. This discovery was the hour of birth for the salt mining in Hall. In 1272 the first tunnel of the salt mine was opened, and water was used to extract the salt. The salt production was moved from the mine in the Hall Valley to the wetlands along the Inn. The salt solution or brine was transported down into the valley by use of hollowed tree trunks (cast iron pipes in 1903) that formed a conduit which was interrupted by several brine chambers to the boiling house where the brine was evaporated in large iron pans to produce salt crystals.
Along the historic salt trail to Sankt Magdalena wooden wall charts inform you about the impressive history of the “white gold”. Right after the beginning of the asphalted road you can find the Berger Chapel where three images from the late 17th century can be admired. The miners were called “Berger”. They had their own jurisdiction and the chapel marked the border between the miners and the town’s jurisdiction. This means that only the so-called ‘salt master’ had the right to arrest a miner. This common practice had existed since the 14th century and was recorded in writing by the Emperor Maximilian I in 1502.
Brine chambers, escape route and manor houses
On the way through the Hall Valley three brine chambers can be found. They served as storage shelters for various materials, brine and as a rest area. Shortly after the chapel starts the escape route which was used by the miners to reach their working place in case of avalanche risk. Avalanches and mudflows have always posed a great threat to this area and even today the access to St. Magdalena can be blocked. An outstanding testimony of the former mining in the Hall Valley are the Officers Headquarters, the so-called ‘Herrenhäuser’. They are located at the end of the valley and were the centre of the 700-year-old Hall salt mine. The Officers Headquarters in their present form were built between 1777 and 1791. They served as administration building and accommodation for the officers. Unfortunately, an avalanche destroyed large parts of the houses in 2001.
The tunnel system in the Hall Valley
Over the centuries, a total of eight tunnels were dug into the mountain by the use of hammer and pick. The vast network of shafts and tunnels stretched their way across more than 40 kilometres and up to depths of 300 meters. Some tunnels are named after Austrian Archdukes and Emperors. The oldest tunnel, the Oberbergstollen, was excavated in 1270 and the oldest one (1808) is named after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Around the mine several residential buildings were erected for miners and stables for craftsman and carters.
As already mentioned above, the farm building south of the St. Magdalena church was restored in 2004. Excavations carried out by Hall Archaeological Society in 2004 and a large fire pit and vast amounts (approx. 30,000 fragments) of ceramics were found, which points to the use of fire and salt extraction.
The finds dating back to the late Hallstatt and early La Tène culture (ca. 8th - 5th centuries BC) suggest a commercial activity already before Christ. Therefore, it is possible to presume that these finds have to do with early salt production, i.e. that brine was evaporated at this place. History is still being written! The Haller Saline was first mentioned in a document in 1256, salt mining officially began in 1232. Nobody knows for sure when salt was discovered.
Ceramic pot, approx. 6th century before Christ
Place of finding: St. Magdalena Hall valley, Photo: Hall Archaeological Society
SUNDAY 9:00 a.m.: Hiking like in the olden days - From St. Magdalena to Issboden
A shuttle service runs from the Halltal valley entrance to St. Magdalena. Hike along wild and romantic paths through the Karwendel, the nature park of the year 2020. The hike leads to Issboden, which is known for its varied flora and fauna, against a breathtaking backdrop. Equipped with Swarovski binoculars and a little luck, you will be able to see chamois, ibex and golden eagles. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Hall's tourism history in 2020, various topics such as the beginning of alpinism in the region, the hiking and mountain equipment of yesteryear, the founding of the Austrian Alpine Club and much more are subject of this cultural-historical hike. At the end of the tour we make a break at the St. Magdalena Inn. Let's go!
• Duration: approx. 5 hours
• Meeting place: Hall valley parking lot entrance, Absam
• Minimum number of participants: 2 persons
• Maximum number of participants: 12 persons
• Guest rate: free of charge
• Normal rate: EUR 10 (Shuttle: EUR 5 per person and journey)
• Registration: by Saturday 12:00 at the latest at the tourist office in Hall
• Mountain boots, weatherproof clothing and provisions (drinks!) absolutely necessary!