Herz-Jesu-Kirche, the catholic parish church in the centre of Brig is a modern building, erected 1967 - 1970. The architects, Jean and Nadine Iren, designed it as "The Lord's Tent Among His People". The roof is shaped like a tent roof. The cubic bell tower serves as the central pole, pieces of concrete wall support the outside edge of the tent.
The church is open in the daytime. From the main door you first reach the entrance hall with the baptismal fountain with constantly running water. Up one of the two ramps you continue around tower and middle wall to enter the main church hall.
Choir and altar are placed underneath the tower in the middle of the building. While the tent roof is dark and shady, here in the middle daylight is falling in through the tower windows onto the altar and the crucifix on the wall.
Seven stained glass windows symbolize major elements of Christian life and faith: Pentecost, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Communion, the Sin, the Annunciation, Birth, the Passion.
Listen for the bells. Every evening around 18:30, before the daily evening mass, they play a melody. I have no idea which song this could be but I liked the melody a lot.
Two old post carriages that used to run on the Simplon mail in the 19th century are on display in the courtyard of Stockalperpalast. The post line was established after the Simplon road had been built under Napoleon (1801-1805). I don't think riding in these carriages was too comfortable but it was a lot better than being mounted on a mule.
The carriages have been fenced off to keep people from climbing on them, a measure which is understandable but nevertheless a pity.
Photographers: On sunny mornings the windows of these carriages provide nice reflections (photos 4 and 5).
The small chapel in the main square was built in the 1630s. It is dedicated to Sebastian the martyr. The painting on the baroque altar depicts the saint in Roman uniform with the palm twig in his hand that classifies him as martyr, angels crowning him – the background, however, is the alpine landscape around the town of Brig. An image of Sebastian’s martyrdom is on display in the corner on the left (photo 4).
The chapel is open in the daytime. It is used by local people for devotions and prayer; please behave respectfully and keep quiet if there is someone praying. The chapel is too small to provide room for both prayer and sightseeing without disturbing each other. (I was alone in there, so no one was disturbed by my camera.)
The largest square in the centre, actually a series of squares, is the heart of the town, the centre of day and night life. The adjacent streets towards the station are the main shopping area. Restaurants, cafes and pubs assemble around the square, most with outdoor seating. The square is pedestrianized except for the post and city buses and the choo choo train.
The square hosts two attractions: the chapel of St Sebastian (see separate tip), and the monument to the Peruvian pilot Geo Chavez who was the first pilot to fly over Simplon pass in 1910, but unfortunately crashed his plane upon landing and died from his injuries three days later.
Sebastiansplatz is also the place for people-watching, if there is anyoneup to anything in town, they will pass here. Like the brass band in Landsknecht uniform on the way to church on Corpus Christi Eve who gave a spontaneous concert in the square.
The interior of the palace can only be visited with guided tours. These start at fixed hours during the day (9.30, 10.30, 13.30, 14.30, and 15.30, in summer also 16.30) every day except Monday. Tours take place on demand – walk in from the courtyard and obtain your ticket from the cash desk (CHF 8 for adults). The tour will take place whenever there is someone who wants it. I went for the 9.30 tour on a Tuesday and got a private tour all for myself because there was no one else!
The palace buildings are nowadays used by the magistrate, the town’s administration and the law court. These use the historical halls for their purposes.
The tour begins in the courtyard and takes you into the old Stockalper house first. Here you get to see the main rooms of the residential quarters. Some rooms have beautiful printed wallpaper from the 19th century – one with Swiss attractions, one with ancient Greek architecture, etc. Photography is strictly not allowed in the rooms with those wallpapers but permitted everywhere else (without flash please). Then you get to see the chapel, which has been refurbished in modern style after a long time of neglect but the silver altar piece that Kaspar Stockalper acquired is still there. From the chapel wing you walk over the Venetian bridge into the big palace which has some more historical rooms. All in all the tour takes about 45 minutes.
This is a photo tip if you are there in the right season! The rose garden is part of the gardens of Stockalper Palace, but it is easily missed if you overlook the side paths. It is located on a terrace along the Southern front of the palace. Climb the small stairway by the vineyard terrace to reach it.
Kaspar Stockalper was a pious Christian. Three, the sacred number of Christianity, shows up everywhere in the architecture of the palace: the number of the towers, the arrangement of the windows, the arches of the Venetian bridge, three rows of arcades in the courtyard, and so on. Three is the Trinity, and also the Three Holy Kings.
Stockalper’s own namesake was one of the Three Kings, hence their significance for him. His crest shows, in addition to the three sticks for “Stock”alper, the three crowns of the Holy Kings. The towers of the palace were named after them: Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Kaspar is of course the tallest of the three towers.
The three parts of the palace complex are crowned with three gilded celestial bodies. The moon is on the oldest part, the old Stockalper house, Kaspar Stockalper’s residential house. The star was placed on the middle wing with the chapel while the sun is gleaming from the highest point of the big new palace: from the spire of the tallest tower.
There are two positions from which you can catch all three in one photo: from the doorstep of Wegner house, and on the other side of the old Stockalper house from the little square with the trees in Sennereigasse.
Brig’s main attraction, impossible to overlook, is the huge palace with its three towers, crowned by onion-shaped domes. This here is the largest late renaissance – early baroque palace in Switzerland that was built as a private residence. Its most beautiful part is the courtyard, surrounded by arcades in the style of Italian palazzi and renaissance castles.
Kaspar Jodok Stockalper, later sired as Kaspar Jokok Stockalper vom Thurm and nicknamed the “King of the Simplon”, had himself built a stately residence just like any Prince of the Holy Roman Empire would have done. The old Stockalper house stayed his residential home, though. The new palace, built in 1651 – 1671, served for business purposes and representation. The main wing contained offices for trade and halls for receptions and festivities.
The courtyard was used to store goods behind safe walls and do trade, but also as market square where not only Stockalper himself but also the farmers from the surroundings offered their produce for sale.
The courtyard is accessible for free every day from morning until about 10 p.m. The interior can only be visited with guided tours (CHF 8 per adult). Inside the palace there is also a small exhibition about Stockalper’s life and (summer 2012, no idea how long) about the history of the Simplon pass which can be visited for free during the opening hours. The hours change with the seasons, for up to date information check their website.
Nowadays the courtyard is used for all kinds of events, like concerts, receptions, festivals. At Corpus Christi the catholic parish community had an open-air mass in the courtyard. If you have a closer look at the first photo you’ll see soldiers marching through the palace gardens: There was some kind of military ceremony happening in the courtyard that day, I never found out what it really was.
This is the monument for Geo Chavez, who was the first man to fly over the Simplon, that was in a small airplane in 1910. This monument is on the square next to Saltinabridge. Chavez started in Brig and flew over the Simplon to Domodossola, but the airplane fell apart shortly before landing and Geo Chavez died a few days later of these injuries. Jorge Chávez Dartnell was his full name, but in Switzerland he mostly is called Geo Chavez.He was one of the early flight-poineers, the first man who flew in a hight of more than 2500 meters.
b.t.w. The airport of Lima/Peru is called after him : Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez.
Altes Stockalperhaus - the first Stockalperpalast - is a lot smaller than the one that everybody is heading to and there is a nice restaurant nowadays (see some pics in my restaurant-tips!) in that building and their garden-restaurant is in the innercourt from where you will see some of the great arcades of this intersting building of history.
This modern sculpture is using some of the original rails of the cogwheel-train that will take you from Brig to Zermatt. There are 2 ordinary rails for the wheels and in the middle the train has also a special rail with teeth, that is added at the steep parts of the train-track.
Sebastiansplatz is a nice square in the pedestrian zone of Brig, a great place to go for shopping, to relax in one of the many garden-restaurants or to take a walk. Dont miss Sebastianskapelle (read more about it in my next tip!) and the monument for Geo Chavez.
There is an interesting stone-bridge over two floors from altes Stockalperhaus to the much larger Stockalperpalast,that is considdered to be the largest private baroque palace in Switzerland. This bridge reminds me a lot of similar bridges between 2 buildings that I saw in Italy.
The park of Stockalperpalast is open for the public day and night and it is a great place to relax and there are some tennis-courts as well. You will also find a lot of modern Art, mainly sculptures in that park, you can enter the park from the city or through the back-entrance of Stockalperpalace (that might be closed after midnight).