A visitor to Innsbruck, Austria, will see many beautiful churches and shrines. Each place of worship has a unique story sometimes hundreds of years in the making. The Basilica in the Wilten neighborhood of Innsbruck has a great story and is one of the most beautiful structures in the entire city.
A long time ago, as the story goes, a giant named Haymon came to the great Inn valley in the Tirol. Here he saw the people of the valley being harassed by a dragon. He did not like this so he crafted weapons to fight the dragon; it was a terrible battle, but Haymon prevailed. This victory did not sit well with another giant, named Tyrsus, who also lived in the area. He considered Haymon his rival. The rivalry eventually turned to blows and in the commotion, Haymon stabbed Tyrsus – who died. Haymon was overcome with grief! He sought atonement and out of his grief founded a monastery at Wilten. Haymon continued to be a monk at the monastery for the remainder of his life.
Today, the monastery still exits and is adjacent to the beautiful Wilten Basilica.
Visitors to the Basilica will be impressed by the beauty; the soft and gentle colors, the abundant light, hand-carved wooden pews – it is a place you just enjoy.
The Basilica is centuries old, the oldest part being the chalice which dates from 1160.
First, there are the great wooden doors that a person enters – they are massive, yet well balanced and open with a firm push. The main hall has lofty ceilings and walls that are painted with biblical scenes.
After entering the Basilica and admiring it, walk to the center and look back; over the front door is a massive and towering pipe organ which, despite its size, blends well into the surroundings.
On this day the Basilica is quiet. Some people are sitting in pews praying, reflecting on life itself, or just sitting quietly enjoying the ‘presence’ of this place.
A person who had been sitting quietly stands and takes a step – it is heard all the way to the back of the Basilica. The person looks around the church for a second then walks up to the center aisle and exits the Basilica.
Near the front door are some candles, many are lit to remember relatives and friends. To the side is a photo hung on the wall, it is Pope John Paul II during his visit to the Basilica in 1988.
My wife and I have been here before, many years earlier; the Basilica has not changed and there is comfort in that. The stillness and near absolute quiet of this place is most audible. Suddenly, a loud and heavy ‘pop’ is heard as the main door is quickly opened and a group from a tour bus pours inside. The sound echoes through the place. The tourists try to be quiet but are difficult for 40 people who are amazed by the beauty in this place. The tour guide walks to the front and, as quietly and respectfully as she can, points out the various features of the church. The group appears to be from Spain, but they look like a group of retired Americans from Florida – sunglasses, wide-brimmed sun hats, shorts, tennis shoes, and cameras mounted firmly to their bellies. Many of the tourists stop at a table and buy postcards, books, and other items. The leave. A few stragglers stay behind a minute or two and capture some of the returning calm and silence then they hustle outside to catch up with their group.
It is quiet again and enjoyable.
Another tour bus pulls up outside, shortly followed by another.