The two pretty towers of the Church of John the Baptist, in Ampass, have held a special place in my heart ever since I first moved here. The reason for this is that I can see them from my window up on the 7th floor, and by going out one day to find them, I began what is now a 12-year-long affair with the local history, investigating the hills surrounding the city and all their hidden treasures.
One thing I learned recently, however, is that excavations on the hill on which the bell tower sits yielded proof of prehistoric settlement. This didn’t surprise me, because the first time I came to this church, more than 10 years ago, I came “the wrong way” through a field and over the wooded hill next door, which, with its flat top, whispered (hell, spoke plainly) of ancient presences. It was a definite vibe.
An old 1637 sketch refers to this hill (next to the church) as the “Burckhstall Bichl“, the word Burgstall often being found to refer to a high fortress in the Middle Ages. So where the bell tower now stands, there was likely once a fortress in ages past.
The little church is full of frescoes, and a favorite site for weddings. This scene of Mary with the infant Jesus has a certain Tyrolean style to it. I particularly like the two cherubs below, pushing a beribboned lamb up the steps. Jesus might have felt something similar about his future career…
A bit of a coincidence: an adorned grave — that of Helmut Wlasak, former artistic director of the Tiroler Landestheater. He led the company for 25 years but retired long before I arrived. I had never met him, but over the years heard many people speak very warmly of him. He was evidently a true Theatermensch. He died last week.
There used to be an old main footpath (before the roads were built) from the collegiate church in Wilten to the church in Amras and then further to this church in Ampass. The latter two both belonged to the Wilten parish. The first leg was once part of the old Roman road from the Roman fortress Veldidena (now Wilten); a Roman milestone was placed here. This is now
Wiesenstrasse Wiesengasse and Philippine-Welser-Strasse, two normal city streets.
The second leg, from Amras to Ampass, is only paved to a certain point; the rest remains a footpath (although evidently not exactly in the same place as the old original one), which climbs up the hill to Ampass and is called the Pfaffensteig, or Priests’ Path.