The deep-rooted religious culture of the area and its people
The roots of Ladin religious culture, as in the most part of alpine cultures, lie in Christianity and can be seen in the large number of churches, crucifixes, votive capitals, ways of the cross, statues and frescoes to be found throughout the area. Religious functions are much felt by the local population and many people play an active part in pastoral life. In their homes and more precisely, in their “stua” (typical alpine-style living room), the people of the Val di Fassa still reserve a corner in which to hang a Crucifix surrounded by effigies of the Sacred Heart and of the Madonna dell’Aiuto (Our Lady of Help). We should also mention the Corpus Domini celebrations, a solemn event with processions through the streets and exhibitions of old banners, followed by worshippers in their Ladin costumes, bands and parish choirs. Another important festival is that dedicated to St. Nicholas; on the evening of 5 December, the saint, in his cart or on horseback, with his white beard and red coat, knocks on doors bringing presents to those children who have been good all year. They must not be afraid of the devils (diaui), frightening figures wearing horrible wooden masks, carrying chains and covered with rough skins. There are many feast days to celebrate patron saints and these were once the occasion to organise fairs and livestock markets. The most important of these feast days is dedicated to St. Juliana, protectress of the valley, and it is celebrated on 16 February. On this occasion, many local people walk to the sanctuary dedicated to St. Juliana, which is situated in a splendid position overlooking the town of Vigo di Fassa. Equal attention is dedicated to the Madonna of Pietralba, also known as Baissiston by the local people. The sanctuary dedicated to her is in Alto Adige, after the Costalunga Pass for those arriving from Fassa, in the municipality of Nova Ponente. The origins of this shrine date back to the mid-16th century. It stands on a lonely, dominant site surrounded by large flat meadows, wild forests and views of the most beautiful mountains in Trentino Alto Adige: from Brenta to Ortles and from the Dolomites to Corno Bianco. Since around 1550, the people of the Val di Fassa have been making pilgrimages to Pietralba on foot, sustained by pure faith, in order to ask for grace or simply to pray. Today, this devotion to Our Lady of Baissiston has remained unchanged. Many old rituals of the faith are no longer celebrated but that does not mean that they have been forgotten; on the contrary, the population in general and above all, its younger members, is showing an increasing wish to return to the traditions and old customs, to the true heart of our people: a return to their origins in a quest for the values that have inspired and sustained the people of Fassa in their poverty through the centuries.
The churches of the Val di Fassa, which are works of art showing the valley’s history, play an important role in the Val di Fassa. The most important is the church of San Giovanni, which was built towards the end of the 15th century, the old Parish Church of the Community of Fassa and diaconal seat. The old church of Santa Giuliana, dedicated to the patron saint of the valley, dominates the town of Vigo di Fassa from the north west. Also worthy of mention are the church of San Vigilio in Moena, which was consecrated in 1164, the church of San Lorenzo in Pera di Fassa, the Madonna della Neve church in Canazei (Gries) and the Church dedicated to Saints Rocco and Sebastiano in Penia. To see a full list of all the churches in the Val di Fassa, just click on the Info button.