The Sacred Heart Festival is a special experience for locals and guests too. People spend days taking wood up to the bonfire sites in the mountains to prepare for it.
The ‘Sacred Heart Fire’ has been lit in South Tyrol every year since 1796 after Corpus Cristi in June. Local communities still renew their pledge to uphold this tradition. The Sacred Heart Fires date back to the Abbot of Stams, who was an important people’s representative in 1796. When the terrible news arrived that Napoleon I’s troops were marching towards South Tyrol from Milan, a council of war was set up. In the end, the abbot suggested seeking divine intervention and he and the council of war vowed to celebrate a feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with solemn high masses and sermons throughout the land if the Lord stood by them all. They were evidently successful. After the victorious battle at Bergisel in 1809, the famous freedom fighter Andreas Hofer renewed this pledge with a great festival. At the same time, this festival was raised to the status of a permanent annual public holiday. To this day, Sacred Heart Fires are lit as mountain bonfires which can be seen for miles not only in their original Tyrol, but in South Tyrol too since the political division of the area. After High Mass, the festival is traditionally accompanied by a procession and "böllern", traditional gun salutes.