Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Mountain fires in Tyrol´s Ehrwald Basin

Applicant: Karlheinz Somweber, Erich Steiner, Martin Senftlechner, Gebhard Schatz, Ehrwald e.V
Province: Tyrol
Domain: Social Practices
Year of inclusion: 2010

Every year, the mountain fires at the Ehrwald Basin in Tyrol burn brightly around the summer solstice of June 21. Each participating group chooses a figure that is to be drawn, drafted according to the inclination of ground and built using different types of fuel. These figures, which are always topical and up-to-date, are not revealed before June 21.

During the Tyrolean liberation movement of around 1809 (led by Andreas Hofer), so-called chalk fires (“Kreidefeuer”) were lit to warn people of approaching enemies. At the time of this freedom movement from the end of the 19th century up until the 1940s, these midsummer fire festivals were considered part of the local Germanic cultural heritage. During the 1950s, the focus switched to South Tyrolean independence. Today’s mountain fires in Ehrwald go back to the year 1948, when they were first lit to celebrate the consecration of new church bells.