A Touch of England: St Peter’s Church in Zermatt

St Peter’s Church, the ‘English Church’, Zermatt, Switzerland

Perched on the hills that steeply rise from the central street of Zermatt, is the little English Church.  From the outside, it looks sort of Swiss.  But inside – well, it feels awfully English.

Which is the way it should be.  The church is English.  From 1862 the visiting English held services in the local hotels, but it became clear that a full-on Anglican church was necessary and money was collected to bring the plan to fruition.   Strikingly, the Catholic hoteliers, Alexander Seiler and Joseph Clemenz were among the first to donate.  Then, after the first ascent of the Matterhorn claimed the lives of three Englishmen (you can read more about that in my post for the Matterhorn Museum)  the families of Lord Francis Douglas and Douglas Hadow made large donations to the fund.  The foundation stone was laid in 1869 and the doors opened in 1870.

The church was run by the Colonial and Continental Church Society, now called the Intercontinental Church Society.   The ICS was set up in 1823 to bring the Anglican mission to tourists and travellers away from England.  As it happened my visited to the church was on a Sunday, during a service.  As a non-churchgoer, and as someone who hadn’t been in England for a long time, I found the experience quite moving.  To have, in the Swiss mountains, a touch of a very English England was unexpectedly comforting, and I can understand how the mountaineers who were about to embark on their perilous treks would have found coming to St Peter’s a reassuring experience, whatever their convictions.  

But it is also a place of remembrance.  There are some touching memorials inside and outside the church which are worth reading for their sad stories.  It’s also interesting that Reverend Charles Hudson, who fell to his death during the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, is buried under the main altar.

So In Summary

The church is very simple and has a charming atmosphere.  For Sister-Chickpea and me, the weekend spent in Zermatt was topped off by our visit there. With a mixed congregation of residents and tourists, we were made to feel quite at home.  What with the English being among the first to scale the Matterhorn, and with so many British mountaineers braving the mountains of this region, it felt perfectly apt that we rounded off our trip with this symbol of Anglican piety.

Further Information

If you want any information about the work of the church, you can check it out here:  www.ics-uk.org

The church is clearly very active with its religious work, and you can find out more about that on the website too.

How To Get There

Zermatt is tiny and the church is off the main street, on a slight hill, just behind a Japanese restaurant.  There is quite a steep, unpaved path directly leading there and there is a more long-winded route which may provide an easier walk.

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