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You are hereAlta Pusteria / San Candido / Summer / Hiking / Walking Paths / Way of St. James / Stage 1: Winnebach - Welsberg

Way of St. James

Stage 1: Winnebach - Welsberg

Winnebach > Innichen: 1 ¾ hrs.
Innichen > Toblach: 1 ¼ hrs.
Toblach > Welsberg: 2 ½ hrs.

Distance: 25.1 km

Hight difference:
Ascent: 371 m
Descent: 397 m

Immediately after the first section of the route across the flowery meadows of Winnebach and Vierschach we reach, if not the highest point of the South Tyrol stretch of the Way of St. James, at least one of the highest points.

Not only geographically - because, apart from Brenner, the plateau between Innichen and Toblach is the highest point in our route - but also, and most importantly, from an historic point of view. The Benedictine Abbey church of Innichen - its Italian name, San Candido, being derived from one of its two patron saints, Saint Candidus - is considered the most important example of Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture in the Tyrol (built in the 12th century, renovated in the 13th century). It was donated by the Bavarian Duke Tassilo III to Abbot Otto von Scharnitz in the year 769, with instructions to found an abbey, in order to establish here on the water's edge a bastion of Christian civilisation against the heathen Slavs infi ltrating from the East. In this magnifi cent Romanesque church you must see, and marvel at, the late Romanesque frescoes in the dome depicting the story of the Creation, and the Crucifi xion Group in the choir which is also late Romanesque and a place of pilgrimage from all over the region for centuries, the Romanesque crypt with its sculpture of St. Candidus, and fi nally, in the south portal, the Gothic fresco by Michael Pacher portraying the Abbot Otto II between the two patrons of the church, St. Candidus and St. Corbinian.

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This plateau has another special treat in store for us: the spring of the River Drau, which the pilgrims who set out from Slovenia had followed for about 300 kilometres. You too can drink from the waters here!

The route along the edge of the forest brings us to Toblach, a village which was wealthy and important in the middle ages because two major trade and traffi c routes met up. The Via Alemagna from Venice (going to Augsburg, the town of the Fuggers) meets the old Roman road from Aquileia here, the same road that we are following. The wealth of the village is obvious both from the decor of the beautiful late Baroque (1769) Parish Church of St. John, and from the numerous imposing and well cared for buildings and houses, which today characterise the village. Tourism arrived at the end of the 19th century with the construction of the fi rst Austrian internal railway, the "Südbahn" from Vienna to Innsbruck, which ran through the Puster Valley, and which also brought further prosperity for Toblach.

A bit of Austrian history awaits us on the way to Niederdorf, when we pass "Bad Maistatt". This is where Maximilian I, Emperor from 1493-1519, took therapeutic baths, and it is also where the composer Gustav Mahler spent his summers at the beginning of the 20th century. (It is said that his 9th Symphony was composed here.) In 1456 a hospital was established in Niederdorf for travellers, pilgrims and the sick. The adjoining Hospital Church of the Holy Trinity still exists today.

Our feet will have to put up with asphalt for the rest of the way to Welsberg, but at least these are small, scarcely used roads and paths through the wide and sunny Puster Valley. Welsberg is the birthplace of Paul Troger, creator of the famous frescoes in Brixen Cathedral, and the three altarpieces in the parish church of his home village are also his work. The frescoes of the little Gothic shrine behind the church are, however, painted by the second great artist of the Puster Valley, Michael Pacher.

Informations about the stages 2 - 6 you will find on www.jakobsweg.it.

Text source: Brochure "Jakobsweg Südtirol"

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