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Mountain bonfires for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Of Crosses and Flames

Every year, on the third Sunday after Pentecost or a week after Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart of Jesus fires are lit throughout South Tyrol. The fires often take the form of religious symbols such as the Heart of Jesus, crosses, or inscriptions like INRI or IHS.

The tradition of lighting fires around the summer solstice dates back to the 12th century when solstice or St. John's fires marked the beginning of summer. However, the reason we celebrate this custom as we know it today is quite different:

The origin traces back to the 18th century, during Napoleon's time when he attempted to conquer all of Europe. In the spring of 1796, Napoleon's army stood before the Alps, catching the Tyroleans completely off guard and unprepared for the impending war. Consequently, the Tyrolean Diet decided to seek divine help, entrusting the County of Tyrol to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Soon after, the Tyroleans indeed triumphed over the French.

Since then, the third Sunday after Pentecost commemorates this solemn promise, and the Sacred Heart fires are lit to express the bond with the homeland through Christian symbols.