The Chapels (Kapellen) of Hinterstoder-Chapter 11
The Stegerkapelle was commemorated by my father in the painting above.
This chapel was built as a reminder to foster the contemplation of Jesus. Every year various processions relating to significant events in Jesus’ life begin there and continue through the town. These events include the Raising of the Cross, the Corpus Christi Procession, and Christ’s Heavenly Ascension.
When I was in high school my favorite subject was English. Thinking back, it likely was because my favorite teacher, Mrs Schmidt, taught it. Almost every night one of our assignments was to watch the Late Night Show with Jack Paar, who was the host. No late-night host has ever come close to his caliber of humor, intellect, wit, and wisdom. We would spend at least half the period discussing the previous night’s show. He featured authors, scientists, and actors, but always interesting, intellectual people. One night he made a joke about his trip to Austria where he saw an arrow pointing to a building that said “WC”. He knew that Austria had more chapels than any other country, so he told the audience it meant Wayside Chapel. Of course, it meant Water Closet (toilet). That was enough in 1959 to make the censors cut him off. He walked off the set never to return.
Hinterstoder has its share of chapels and Jack Paar would not find one that has a WC. Most chapels were erected to commemorate events of great tragedy, or overwhelming gratitude. The story of some are well known and recorded, while others have been washed away by the fog of history. Some date back a century or more, and some are recent.
One of the neglected chapels in Hinterstoder which only has some crumbling foundations left, goes back to over 130 years ago. It was built in the back of the valley in what is called the Baumschlagerreith.
The Baumschlagerreith at the end of the Hinterstoder valley, a cul de sac (Picture by Herzi Pinki).
A miracle happened there in the Baumschlagerreith. Lambert Gürtle, a farmhand, reported to his boss that Mary Mother of God had appeared to him. The farmer and his wife, being very religious, erected a chapel at the site of the miracle. As it happened, Lambert had another miraculous vision a year later. This time Mary Mother of God spoke to him.
She instructed that he gather all the teenage girls in the village and bring them to the chapel where they should disrobe. Lambert never saw that happen, but he did lose considerable credibility with the second miracle. Consequently, people stopped bringing flowers to the chapel, as well as keeping it in a state of repair, and slowly it crumbled down to its foundations.
The Dietlgut Chapel has a much more inspirational story. It is about two miles from the crumbling one in the Baumschlagerreith. It, however, is very well cared for, and is the one closest to the Jochemsvilla, where General Mark Clark, the High Commissioner of Austria from 1945 to 1947, lived. The chapel is rather large for a chapel and even outfitted with a bell tower. Actually, it can seat 65 of the faithful. Clark did visit this chapel on more than one occasion, as did his staff. Also the Chief-Chaplain of the US Army visited it in1948, when he was paying a visit to the General. One of the stories that I have heard regarding the origin of this chapel is that one cold winter, the two children of Frau Zāzilia Hackl, the then owner of the Dietlgut, sustained major injuries from a mountaineering accident and almost did not survive, but miraculously recovered. Frau Hackl erected this chapel in 1882 to commemorate and celebrate her children’s survival.
Not all chapels are actual buildings, some are just memorial markers. These are called “Marterl”. This one is on the path to the Schiederweiher. The Schiederweiher pond was created at the beginning of the last Century to serve as a reservoir to stock fish and as a reflecting pool to mirror the surrounding mountains including the Ostrawitz, the Spitzmauer and parts of the Grosser Priel. This “Marterl” remembers Friederike Schieder, the wife of Johan Schieder, the builder of the pond. Friederike Schieder died in 1963 at age 88.
The way the Steyr should look at the same spot when it behaves itself, with the Schmalzer Chapel, on a sunny day, compared to the photo below, when in 1920 after a biblical rain downpour, it almost got washed away. The Schmazerkapelle is near the Schmalzerhof, a farm on the way to Dietlgut. In 1920 a torrential rain swelled the Steyr to epic destructive forces that can be appreciated in the following picture.
This chapel was erected in 1887 to commemorate the hunting achievements of the Duke of Württemberg (subsequently he became King Wilhelm II of Württemberg) who hunted in and around Hinterstoder at the turn of the last Century.
Prince Wilhelm von Württemberg hunting in Hinterstoder in 1891, one year before he ascended to the throne and became King of Württemberg. Württemberg was one of the states within Germany that were united by Otto v. Bismarck, but maintained some independence from the Kaiser. Wilhelm was an enlightened King, providing public education, support of the arts, and the wellbeing of his subjects. He was also a generous supporter of the little Austrian village of Hinterstoder.
Saint Hubertus was born in Toulouse, France and brought up in Paris. He became a Bishop in 708 AD. He is the patron saint of hunters as well as animals. He is said to have had a vision of a stag with a glowing cross between his antlers. At that moment he came to realize that animals should be treated with greater respect and that there were compassionate and humane rules that had to be followed.
A hunter is obligated to shoot only when a clean quick kill is assured. Only old stags, past their prime breeding years, should be killed and a female is never shot with young in tow.
The Eistererkapelle goes back to 1870, but was restored in 1982. It often serves as a viewing chapel for a particularily honored, departed Hinterstoder citizen. It is rather small and only has room for the casket and four seats on each side.
The Poppenkapelle also dates back to a time when it marked the old road to Vorderstoder as one exits Hinterstoder. It was erected on the property of the Jaidhaus, a hotel and restaurant, but Popengut employees cared for it, hence it is named the Poppenkapelle.
Weissenbacherkapelle goes back to 1811. It was erected by a farmer named Oberbuchebner in rememberance of the death of Franz Baumschlager who died in a work related accident at that site while harvesting wheat.
(Picture by Florian König)
An intentionally starkly humble chapel is found in the Hinterstoder Cemetery. This is in contrast to the rest of the Cemetery, very typical of Austrian cemeteries which are very ornate and have a Baroque style, as does the church which adjoins it.
This chapel, painted by my father, according to his notes is in Hinterstoder, but it does not resemble any of the existing chapels that I know. As he is no longer with us, I cannot ask him. I have often thought that it could be the crumbled chapel of the Baumschlager miracle, but then Heinz Schachner, the Hinterstoder Historian, set me straight by sending me the picture of the infamous chapel which was round (see picture at beginning of chapter).