When we were first planning the trip to see the saints, I was not aware how spread out they were - I had assumed that most of them were to be found in Bavaria, which was where the ones I had heard of were located. Yet they cover an impressive range, including truly tiny towns in the Austrian Alps. On the journey to the mountains from Munich, we stopped off at Ettal Abbey, which is a 14th century Benedictine monastery that continues to brew beer. It doesn’t contain any catacomb saints, but was amusingly well-run, with a giant gift store, distillery tours, abbey tours, a restaurant, and all sorts of merchandise on sale. It was also set in a picturesque valley, and all that revenue has obviously gone into keeping a very ornate church in great condition:
Ettal was beautiful, but not exactly delicate, and it didn’t really prepare me for how amazing the towns we were heading to were. Grän and Tannheim are tiny villages in Tyrol; Grän’s Wikipedia article runs to three sentences. Set in a mountain valley, the towns are close to several stunning glacier(?) lakes. The area was relatively popular with hikers, but even in the summer season, it was blissfully peaceful, and you could camp right up next to the lakes (this lake, I think, is the Haldensee, which is where we camped):
We were, of course, here for the catacomb saints. Grän and Tannheim have a few saints between them, set in incredibly ornate cases. This is Clemens, looking particularly louche:
And an unnamed friend of his who seems to be compensating for a lack of a torso by being wrapped in assorted jewels:
Julius, who also doesn’t have a torso, and instead floats ethereally on a fantastic pillar of ornate gold:
And finally, another Clemens, who like Julius wears an incredible leafy crown on his head (apologies for the accidental self-portrait):
All of these saints rest in two of the most beautifully placed churches I have ever seen:
I said in my two previous posts that this was my favourite part of the holiday, and it wasn’t just because of how amazing their catacomb saints were: Grän and Tannheim are virtually perfect in my book. We went up a dubious ski-lift and I had a hot chocolate on the top of a mountain:
One day, I intend to road-trip back and spend a week hiking there.
After Austria, we continued on to the catacomb saints of Switzerland. In my next post, I’m mainly going to cover the practical aspects of the journey in case you are interested in repeating our trip. Click through for the odd photo of the remaining Swiss saints, friendly cats and other miscellenia, and thanks for reading so far!