Church of St. Ulrich

History and legend


History and legend are interwoven in this, the most important church in Lavis. It contains a harmonious blend of stuccoes, frescoes, polychrome stone and wooden sculptures, such as the Othmar Winkler's stations of the cross.


Records attest to the existence of the church from 1240, but according to legend there was a chapel on the site where the church now stands, which was built prior to the year 1000 to house various relics of St. Ulrich. In fact, there is a popular local belief that St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, died here while returning from Rome. It is interesting to note that in those days the river Avisio formed the border between the German and Italian territories: bishop Ulrich, who had fallen seriously ill during his journey, had prayed to God that he be allowed to die on German land. And so it was: no sooner had he crossed the bridge over the Avisio that led to Lavis, at that time under German rule, than the bishop passed away.
Over the centuries the church was enlarged until it attained its current form during the second half of the 18th century, designed by the architect Antonio Giuseppe Sartori from Castione. The bell-tower is mid-15th century, although the lower part is Gothic. The visitor enters the church through a Baroque altar-style portal, and passes under a statue of St. Ulrich giving a blessing. The former entrance portal can still be seen on the south side. The interior is a vast, luminous space decorated with polychrome Roccoco stucco reliefs and Tiepolesque frescoes of biblical scenes, the work of Bartolomeo Zeni, a leading exponent of late Baroque. Zeni was probably helped by his talented son, Domenico Zeni, particularly in the side naves. The eighteenth century polychrome marble main altar and the tabernacle are both worthy of attention. The paintings are also of great note, including the altar-piece which portrays the patron saint Ulrich (1822) and the side altar-pieces depicting the Assumption of Mary and the Resurrection, which are eighteenth century but with clear Caravaggesque allusions. The side altars dedicated to the Madonna and the Crucifix came from the previous church, while along the sides it is impossible not to be struck by Othmar Winkler's fourteen wooden Stations of the Cross, made in 1944. These are without doubt one of the artist's greatest masterpieces and they occupy a prominent position in the region's great cycles of modern sacred art.


Opening: every day 7-19

Bibliography: Andrea Brugnara, I luoghi dell’arte e della storia nel Comune di Lavis, Comune di Lavis, 2006