The parish church is enthroned above Grossarl on a southern rocky outcropping in Ellmautal, visible from far away. It is surrounded by the local cemetery.
Today’s church is actually the second at this location, though almost nothing is known about the first one. Only 2 documents from the year 1339 report indirectly of a “Kirchen in der Arl”, a time when Grossarl was still far removed from being its own parish.
In those days, Grossarl was under a mother parish in St. Veit im Pongau. The size of the church used to be far more like that of a chapel. Over time, it became too small for the steadily growing population.
As a consequence, calls for a newer and much bigger church grew louder during the 18th century. The decision to build a remodeled church was made in 1768 and the work was completed in 1770. The new structure cost 7,805 guilders. Of that sum, the cathedral chapter paid 3,000 guilders, while the prince archbishop donated 1,000 ducats.
The south and east sides of the church were built completely new, while on the north and west walls, as well as in the tower, parts of the old church were incorporated. The old tower was made taller, with its dome only added in 1783. Likewise, a new parsonage was built in 1770, the one we still know today.
The church was remodeled in the style of the Late Baroque. It is a single-nave church with a gabled roof. It has 3 bays, windows with rounded arches and uniform Rococo features. A double gallery on square pillars is located in the 1st bay.
The picture at the high altar depicts the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus. In the upper section of the altar painting, we find a representation of the Holy Trinity. The altar painting is flanked by the two patron saints of this church. St. Ulrich and St. Martin.
This first patron saint of the church was presumably St. Martin. This saint lived in the 4th century and was much loved by the people. There still exist many stories and legends about him, including how he cut his cloak in two in order to share it with a poor beggar, and how cackling geese revealed his hideaway. Saint Martin was also the national saint of the Frankish kingdom. The fact that St. Martin was chosen as the patron saint leads us to conclude that there was a very early house of worship in Grossarl.
Only much later was St. Ulrich added as a second patron saint. St. Ulrich lived in the 10th century. He was bishop of Augsburg and made a significant contribution to the victory over the Hungarians in 955 at the Lechfeld. On 4 July, Grossarl celebrates this patron saint on the day commemorating the death of St. Ulrich.
Both saints are depicted on the high-altar painting in Grossarl parish church. On the right is St. Martin with a goose, on the left St. Ulrich with a book and fish.
For the longest time, the people of Grossarl didn’t know where they should build their church. In such steep countryside, it was hard to find a good place for the parish church that would also be safe from avalanches.
Finally, they decided upon an area known as the Reitfeld. There, a carpenter injured his leg with pickaxe, splattering a few chips of wood with his blood. Suddenly, a raven swooped down and flew away with the blood-flecked wood as far as a mountainside to the east.
The workers saw this as the hand of God and build the parish church at the new site which had been indicated to them by the bird instead. This is the location where Grossarl parish church stands to this day.
The parish church in Hüttschlag stands on a hill at the south-eastern edge of town, surrounded by the Hüttschlag town cemetery. In the 17th century, mining began to boom in Hüttschlag. As a consequence, archbishop Max Gandolf Graf von Kuenburg had a wooden chapel built for the miners “at the smelter hut in Grossarl”.
However, this quickly became too small, and so it was decided to construct a new church in 1679, which would become established as a vicariate. The vicariate became an independent parish in 1891.
The church itself is 38 m long and 12 m wide. It is presumed that the main body of the church was designed by the court architects in Salzburg, since the church shows certain similarities to other buildings created by then court architect Giovanni Antonio Dario.
The church is entered from the lower floor of a tower which stands before the western wall. The nave features 4 bays and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The sanctuary is significantly narrower. Light pours in on both sides through windows with rounded arches. The frugal stuccowork dates back to when the church was built.
Finally, the double-storey gallery was added in 1794. The narrow, pillared high altar was created in 1679, subsequently remodeled on several occasions. We presume that this was supplied by the court cabinetmakers.
The birth of Christ is depicted on the altar painting. It dates from 1780 and was made by court painter Franz Nikolaus Streicher in Salzburg.
It focuses especially on St. Joseph, the patron saint of Hüttschlag. In 1956, the altar was expanded with the addition of figures of the shrine keepers. St. Johannes Nepomuk (presumably a 1750 work by Daniel Mayr from Saalfelden) and Pope Pius X (1956, carved by local sculptor Franz Kreuzer) adorn the sanctuary.
The pulpit is designed completely differently from the rest of the church. In 1863, it was actually removed from the old St. Andrew’s Church in Salzburg and transplanted to Hüttschlag. It is a 1770 work by Salzburg sculptor Franz d. P. Hitzl. A gilded relief of Moses with the tablets containing the 10 Commandments is found on the pulpit. A carved cloth partially intrudes upon the scene.
Especially noteworthy are the putti as well as the ceiling of the pulpit with trumpeting angels. Finally, in 1688, the local mine administrator Ferdinand Kaml donated the two side altars. One of these is known as the Cross Altar, while the other is dedicated to Joseph and his brothers.
The baroque tabernacle as well as the Pietà stand on the left side. The Pietà was presumably created by sculptor Josef Martin Lengauer from Kitzbühel in around 1760. On the right-hand side, we find a very rare tabernacle from the 17th century.
The sanctuary features St. Joseph, the patron saint of Hüttschlag, as well as statues of the following saints: St. Michael, Anthony of Padua and the Immaculata. Also worthy of note is the small group of the “Return from Egypt” (=The Earthly Trinity) from 1770.
Over 40 chapels can be found in Grossarltal. Most of them were established by private people, and often still belong to different farms even today. Some of these chapels are protected monuments.
Most of the chapels in Grossarl and Hüttschlag are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Many were only built after World War II. Often, the motivation for building them was a fateful event in a family or gratitude.
Families continue to take loving care of the individual chapels. They serve as consecrated places of faith and as symbols of popular piety.
The two parish churches as well as 11 chapels are interconnected via the Chapel Path, which runs from Grossarl to the Hüttschlag valley head. Guided chapel hikes are also offered.