In the Hands of God: Zermatt’s Church and the Mountaineers’ Cemetery

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St Mauritius Church, Pfarrkirche St. Mauritius, Zermatt, Switzerland

In the heart of the small town of Zermatt is the comparatively dominant Catholic church of St Mauritius.  From the outside, it doesn’t look too grand, and inside it’s not that grand either – but it is charming and definitely worth a brief visit.

The first mention of the church is from 1285.  It was gradually enlarged and restored over the centuries.  The current building, however, dates from 1916, when the town decided to build a new church.  It was designed by Adolf Gaudy and all its elements were fully in place by 1932.  In 1980 the church was restored, and the ceiling of the choir and nave were painted by Paolo Parente.  The latter has a bizarre depiction of Noah’s Ark with some curious modern details – for some reason seeing a kangaroo was particularly disturbing.  Anyway, it’s a matter of taste.  I much preferred his choir painting.

Around the back of the church is a small graveyard, filled with moving epitaphs which show the strength and courage of dozens of people who ultimately perished on the mountains around Zermatt.  We hadn’t intended to look round, but seeing some English names from the roadside drew us in.  It felt right to show these brave men and women the respect of reading their stories.  The pull of the mountains wasn’t strong enough for me, but standing in the middle of Zermatt it’s easy to understand why people have always wanted to explore its extraordinarily dramatic peaks and glaciers.  You can’t help but admire the pioneering explorers and guides, who took enormous risks.  With so many people going up the mountains, it’s a sobering sight to see that tragedies still happen, in spite of modern equipment and all the safety measures that are standard in the modern world.

So In Summary

Clearly no one is going to travel to Zermatt just to visit the church, but while you’re in town, it’s definitely worth popping in.  The cemetery is more of a matter of taste.  I’m glad we walked round, but you do have to be in the mood to look at gravestones.  If you feel up to reading some sobering inscriptions, it’s worth the time.

Further Information

The church has a basic website in German:

If you visit Zermatt in September/October, you may also be lucky enough to attend a concert in the church as part of the annual Zermatt Festival.  Since 2005, the Scharoun Ensemble has been in residence at the Festival – they are members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  We couldn’t make it to a concert, but we did sit through a rehearsal, which was just lovely.  If you are interested, you can find out more here:

How To Get There

Zermatt is teeny and it’s easy to walk to the church from the train station.  In fact, if you stay in town for more than two hours, you will walk past it numerous times.


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