The sacred heart has been an integral and important part of popular religion in
Tyrol since the Counter Reformation. When Napoleon first marched toward Tyrol in
June of 1796, Tyroleans gathered in the parish church in Bolzano vowed that if
God granted them the victory, they would show their gratitude with have an
annual religious procession. They attributed winning the Battle of Spinges in
1797 to the protection of the sacred heart. At the end of the 19th century,
adoration of the sacred heart took on new importance as Catholicism waged an
ideological war against the threat of liberal and nationalistic thinking.
Now-traditional fires on the mountainside in honor of the sacred heart were
introduced, competing with similar ancient rites that celebrated the summer
solstice. Adoration of the sacred heart of Jesus often mingled with politics, for
example in the 1946 attempt to reunite North and South Tyrol, or in the "Night of
the Fires" set by Tyrolean nationalists in Bolzano on the Feast of the Sacred
Heart in 1961.