Power Place: Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary in Niederndorf
A serene place
High above on Hechenberg Hill in Niederndorf lies a power place of relief in the Kufsteinerland region. Your immersion into a completely new world begins as you hike your way up to the historic chapel. Isidor Winkler explains what makes this place situated at 560 m above sea level so special.
Famous hill in Niederndorf
Even from afar, the beauty of wooded Hechenberg Hill in Niederndorf captures your attention. Up closer, and from the right side of the mountain, you can glimpse the outline of the chapel behind the dense forest. If you travel by car, you will find a parking lot right next to the warehouse. Alternatively, buses stop right in the centre of the village and then a five-minute walk to reach the start of the ascent to Hechenberg.
Far away from everyday stress
The hike takes about half an hour, until you reach the chapel at 560 m. And the effort will be promptly rewarded. As soon as you enter the dense forest, the noise of the traffic below will all but disappear and the chirping of the birds will transport you into another world. The fresh air is fragranced with the beautiful scent of bark. "You should take your time for the ascent, because there are different stations to explore along the trail to the church," says Isidor. "I, in collaboration with my colleague Thomas Kitzbichler, have created the works of art along the trail. They are meant to stimulate reflection. Works include the monument of stone within a small labyrinth, which signifies that you cannot always reach your goal via the easiest route."
The final leg to the chapel
Like the first station, the next installation is also signposted. This station is called "Wildschütz" and leads through a small romantic forest path to a bench overlooking the village of Niederndorf. "In times gone by, this was a place where couples would meet to enjoy the panorama. It is a place of love and gratitude," smiles Isidor. But even those who visit the place alone can fall in love. With the view, the silence or the special ambience – each has his or her preference. After about half an hour of walking along the trail you will reach a clearing. Here the beautiful chapel radiates in the sunshine and the two benches in front invite you to reflect and enjoy the view of the Zahmer Kaiser mountains. The large, colourful mosaic painting above the entrance bears the name of the chapel: "The painting is mine and shows the visit of Mary with Elisabeth," Isidor reveals.
Place of pilgrimage since 1718
The history of the chapel is special: "After the war against Napoleon, the residents of Niederndorf vowed to erect a large chapel on Hechenberg Hill in gratitude to God. The sacred site was founded on the hill in 1718. At the time, there was only a small chapel on the mountain. "There used to be a small chapel just there,” says Isidor, pointing to the wayside shrine on the right of the holy site. “That is the place where a forest worker discovered a picture of the Virgin Mary on a tree." A few years later the present chapel was built next to it. "However, no-one quite knows who built it. In terms of architecture, it bears similarities with the Ebbs Church, designed by Abraham Millauer." As soon as you enter the building, you are surrounded by images and historical paintings that remind you of the terrible wars. Church services are held every Saturday in the summer. They are always well attended. After all, the ambience here is very special.
Forget all your worries
Take a little time, sit down inside the chapel and allow yourself to be inspired by the ambience. You can truly feel the power of God. The images displayed reveal the hardships of the residents in earlier times. This makes us all the more appreciate the life, health and neighbourly love we enjoy today. And there was one last thing Isidor wanted to show us: a visitor book that lies in the antechamber of the chapel. "This book is like a grief box. Here, people write down their worries and express how grateful they are, before descending back down the trail relieved off their burden." We browse the book and read comments about family members suffering illness to people who have lost their loved ones. It causes us to pause for reflection. And all this in a very special place in the heart of Niederndorf on Hechenberg Hill.