You can start the virtual stroll at the place of your choice by selecting a key location from the list below.
Stroll around the sunken church (01)
On the road through the Tyrol from north to south, a few kilometres from the Resia Pass, which marks the border between Austria and Italy, the Reschensee (or Lago di Resia) has a nice surprise in store: a church tower rises from a sort of lagoon. Our virtual stroll takes you around the lagoon and shows it from every angle.
Stroll around the sunken church (02)
Lake Resia is an artificial lake and the construction of the dam in 1950 swallowed up the old village of Graun im Vinschgau, which was rebuilt further up. The church tower is still standing and now stands in the centre of a sort of lagoon separated from the rest of the lake.
Stroll around the sunken church (03)
To discover one of the most beautiful views of the lake, go to this wooden pier. It overlooks the shoreline, which forms a long ring beach enclosing the turquoise waters of the lagoon.
Stroll around the sunken church (04)
We are here in South Tyrol (or Alto Adige), a German-speaking territory that became part of Italy in 1919 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled after the First World War.
Stroll around the sunken church (05)
This part of Italy actually speaks mainly Südtirolerisch, a German dialect close to Bavarian. Only 25% of the inhabitants are Italian-speaking, and a minority speak a Ladin dialect, a language close to the Romansh spoken in Switzerland in the canton of Graubünden.
Stroll around the sunken church (06)
During the Fascist period, Mussolini encouraged Italian-speaking immigration to the region and practised a forced Italianisation of place names, but he did not succeed in eradicating the German-speaking language and culture, which have remained alive and well.
Stroll around the sunken church (07)
The lagoon is fed by a stream which flows into it to the south, and the water level is regulated by this small torrent which discharges the overflow into the lake. We cross it by a wooden footbridge to continue the stroll.
Stroll around the sunken church (08)
The old bell tower and the submerged church date from 1357. In winter, when the lake freezes over, the bell tower can be reached on foot, and there is a legend that on certain days the bells still ring. But they were removed from the bell tower in 1950, before the lake was formed.
Stroll around the sunken church (09)
Surrounded by spectacular scenery, the bell tower and its lagoon have become a destination praised by many tourist guides. But this bell tower is the ghost of a tragedy that we will tell you about in the next few panoramas...
Stroll around the sunken church (10)
Before South Tyrol became part of Italy in 1919, the Austro-Hungarian Empire already had a hydroelectric dam project in the Vinschgau (Val Venosta). In 1920, this project was taken over by Italy, but in a form that did not threaten the villages in the valley. Then things went wrong...
Stroll around the sunken church (11)
When Mussolini's Fascist party came to power in 1922, it began to implement a policy of forced Italianisation in South Tyrol. Some 1000 place names were translated or invented, the Reschenpass became Passo di Resia and Graun im Vinschgau became Curon Venosta...
Stroll around the sunken church (12)
In a dictatorship, the interests and rights of the citizens are usually not respected. In 1939, the Fascist State awarded a consortium the construction of a dam that was to engulf Graun im Vinschgau and part of the neighbouring village of Reschen...
Stroll around the sunken church (13)
Put on hold because of the Second World War, the dam project resurfaced in 1947, to the amazement of the inhabitants. The project, carried out by the same consortium, did not take into account the opinion of the villagers, who were worried about the loss of their homes and land...
Stroll around the sunken church (14)
The population of the villages tried to use all possible political levers, including an audience with Pope Pius XII, to prevent the work from going ahead and to convince the government to reverse its decision...
Stroll around the sunken church (15)
In desperation, the population was ruthlessly expelled from their land, houses and farms. The village of Graun im Vinschgau was demolished and only the church tower was spared. 677 hectares were submerged, 523 of which were agricultural land. 150 families were stripped of everything, which amounted to about 1000 people. Half of them had to emigrate as their only solution...
Stroll around the sunken church (16)
Compensation for all the damage caused by the construction of the dam was very modest. The inhabitants were temporarily housed in barracks after witnessing the destruction of their homes, their cultural heritage and all their livelihoods...
Stroll around the sunken church (17)
What the Second World War could not destroy, a consortium of greedy and unscrupulous people did without respecting the will and needs of a minority that was oppressed at the time. The need to produce energy is real and undeniable, but expropriation should never be without real compensation.
Stroll around the sunken church (18)
Many years later, despite the development of tourism, there are still wounds in Graun im Vinschgau that have not been completely healed. We learned this tragic story from Kurt Ziernhöld, a Reschen hotelier, who tells it on the website.
The Pictorial Guides

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