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The Miller Fox

“The miller fox who once haunted the field and forest. He’s now done, asleep and dozing, and resting in peace!

When the giant face of a huge fox in Gerstboden, located in Saalfelden basin shines through the night, it this has nothing to do with any mystical rituals or religious cults. It is a cultural landscape project in the broadest sense of the term created by the architect Ulrich Stöckl in 2009. The origin of this project stems from a legend from the region.

The legend.
Once upon a time not so long ago, a fox in the district of Gerstboden filled the citizens with fear and terror. Tradition holds that inside this wily animal dwelt the unfortunate soul of a sacrilegious miller, who in the form of a fox could still find no peace. “If I could come back as anything after I'm dead, I’ve always thought I’d best like to come back as a fox!” the old man was said to have always stressed. For several weeks in a row the animal stirred great fear among the people with his unbearable and deafening howling. To put a definitive end to the whole horror, determined field hunters decided to take care of the problem and ambush the crafty fox and the troubled soul. But when the hunters just about had him in the bag, the fox was able to use his cunning to make his escape. It was only when the miller's widow decided to embark on a devotional pilgrimage to Maria Kirchental that the nightmare came to an end. The miller's soul was freed, and the fox was never seen again.

The cultural landscape project.
Ulrich Stöckl’s “Miller Fox of Gerstboden” is a so-called earth sign that was realized by using an original Pinzgau fence in the area of the Saalfelden basin. Particularly impressive is the sight of the fox's likeness kitted out with neon lights on clear nights above the region Saalfelden Leogang. Whether you let this image work its effect on you from the valley or go to the legendary original scene of the legend in person, you will be overwhelmed by the mystical effect of the Miller Fox owing to the traditional background of this project. Surrendering yourself to this mysterious atmosphere on romantic nights seems to be an absolute must for any stay in Saalfelden Leogang.


The importance of decorative beams – wood scrap figures

This type of carpentry work has a long-standing quality tradition in the Alpine region which dates back over centuries. The residential and commercial buildings in the Alps were once made with chopped tree trunks. The joints carefully carved to ensure the building’s strength. These joints were also artistically carved and decorated with pre-Christian and Christian symbols.

Examples:

  • The animal heads on the interior and balcony ridges are pre-Christian symbols for fending off evil spirits. These symbols were intended to keep evil far from the house.
  • Christian symbols such as the cross (for faith), the heart (for love) also began to enter the artwork.
  • The tools of the carpenter and miner were deemed to be an expression of self-confidence and served to identify the craftsman in question.


Hermann Mayrhofer
Curator – Mining & Gothic Museum, Leogang