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Villagers in Elm await spectacular "trail of light"

The people of Elm are given their own sign from the heavens

(Keystone Archive)

Twice a year, villagers in Elm in central Switzerland are treated to a unique natural phenomenon. For a few brief moments on one day in spring and one day in autumn, the sun shines directly through a hole in a mountain peak onto the village church.

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 9:33am on September 30).

The piercing of the sun's rays of "Martin's Hole", which nature has carved out of the peak of the Tschingelhorn (2,850 metres high) above Elm, lasts only two and a half minutes. But it's preceded and followed by a spectacular trail of light. The sun finally rises above the ridge about 10 minutes later.

This year, visitors will be treated to an additional natural phenomenon. The full moon will shine through Martin's Hole on three consecutive evenings from September 30.

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 the rogue 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.

The well-preserved village of traditional wooden chalets blackened by the sun is a former winner of the "Wakker" national heritage prize.


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