Art & Culture in Val Gardena

History and Geography

Val Gardena stretches for about 25 km from Ponte Gardena (470m) to the Sella Pass (2,240m) and consists of three main villages: Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva. The three villages are popular destinations for skiing and hiking activities. The valley is surrounded by the magnificent mountains of the Dolomites. Majestic peaks, and the species-rich flora and fauna, make it a very popular destination in the heart of nature. Historically seen, the first written evidence of the term “Val Gardena” dates back to the year 999, in a document written by the Count Otto von Andechs, when he donated a part of his property – the forests of Val Gardena – to the Bishop. In this document the area of Val Gardena is called "Forestum ad Gredine". It is a term in Ladin, a minority language that arose when the Latin language spoken by the Roman conquerors merged with that spoken by the Rhaetian (a population that inhabited the Alpine area up to the Roman period). This language has survived up to today and is still spoken by a vast majority of the population in Val Gardena. For the people in Val Gardena their language is one of their most precious cultural treasures.

Churches and Monuments

St. Mary’s Parish Church in Selva Gardena

There are many historical, cultural and religious sites in Val Gardena. The Silvester Chapel in Vallunga, the Parish Church “Maria Hilf” or the ruins of Castel Wolkenstein are just some of the places that you should absolutely visit.

The Parish Church of Selva was built in 1503 by Wilhelm von Wolkenstein, who had a chapel built that was dedicated to Holy Mary. Over the centuries the chapel was enlarged several times and became an important and popular church for pilgrims. The altarpiece - a beautiful picture of Holy Mary with Child - is a marvelous copy of a painting by Lucas Cranach, created in in Dresden in 1537. The original is preserved in Innsbruck.

St. Sylvester’s Chapel in Vallunga

At the entrance of Vallunga you can find a charming, small chapel, consecrated to Saint Silvester, patron saint of the cattle. The chapel is located in a very idyllic spot, remote from the town center. During restoration works in 1993, interesting frescoes were discovered, which were painted 300 years ago. You can easily reach the chapel starting from the car park of Vallunga within in a few minutes of walk. You may also choose to visit the chapel while hiking to Pra da Ri, a meadow at the high end of the valley in the natural park. The chapel is located on the path.

Another interesting spot to be visited in Vallunga is that of the ruins of Castle Wolkenstein. The castle once belonged to the Tyrolean noble family of the Wolkensteins and was built in the 13th century. It once served as a summer and hunting residence for the family of the famous medieval poet Oswald von Wolkenstein. Today only the south wall and the atrium are preserved.

Tradition and Folklore in Val Gardena

Traditions Selva Gardena

One of the most important traditions in Val Gardena is certainly that of the traditional garb, called “Tracht”. Since many centuries the people have worn these colorful costumes with their elaborate decorations. In the past, these costumes were part of everyday life and revealed - thanks to the different colors and details – the age and the marital status of those who wore them. Today the same garbs are part of the folklore and worn only on special occasions like costume parades or family celebrations. Every August the traditional folkloristic parade "Val Gardena in costume" takes place in Val Gardena. During this parade the most beautiful clothes are proudly exhibited. Moreover, several folk dance groups and bands take part in the folkloristic parade.

Woodcarving in Val Gardena

Woodcarvings Selva Gardena

Val Gardena is not only famous for the breathtaking scenery and the hospitality of its inhabitants, but also for the tradition of woodcarving. The numerous artisans who live and work as woodcarvers in Val Gardena have inherited this tradition from their ancestors, and have passed it on since many generations. The woodcarving tradition now is the most important cultural heritage of the valley. Initially, it was a complementary activity for many farmers, who produced small wooden animals and toys during the long and cold winter months, to sell them at the spring markets. Today, woodcarving has become an important economic sector: the unique, high-quality wooden figurines, which are carved by several skilled artists, are now well-known and much valued all over the world.

ROWI Sculptures - Via Meisules 56 - 39048 Selva Gardena (BZ)