Out & About in Switzerland: Worshipping the sun in mountain village

Albert Schmid

It is an event that transforms the locals in Elm into sun worshippers. For a few brief minutes in spring and autumn, the sun shines through a hole in a mountain peak directly onto the village church. In Elm, that's reason to celebrate.

This content was published on September 21, 2000 - 12:26

It occurs every year approximately eight days before the start of spring and around eight days after the start of autumn on the astronomical calendar (This autumn at 09:33 on September 30).

On these two days, the sun pokes through the "Martin's Hole", which nature has carved out of the peak of the Tschingelhorn (2,850 metres), and lights up the village church.

The sun's appearance through "Martin's Hole" lasts only two and a half minutes. But it's preceded and followed by a spectacular trail of rays which put the village in canton Glarus in a special light. The sun finally rises above the ridge about 10 minutes later.

A special three-day seminar has been organised to coincide with the event. It starts on September 28 and focuses on how the astronomical phenomenon can be used to stimulate the creative process. It's aimed at advertising and marketing professionals as well as consultants.

As far as legend is concerned, the hole, which is large enough to hold the village church, was the result of a clash in the early Middle Ages between an Irish monk living on the mountain and a thief. The monk, Martin, threw a spear at a man trying to make off with one of his sheep.

He missed the thief but the spear was thrown with such might that it knocked a hole out of the Tschingelhorn peak. Hence the name.

Elm, which is a former recipient of the "Wakker" national heritage prize, will hold a mountain cheese market the same weekend. Visitors will be able to see how "Alp Cheese" is made and witness the return of the cows from high pastures.


Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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