Sacred heart in the parish church of Perdonig, South Tyrol

Scene from the sacred heart picture in the Perdonig parish church, painted around 1800.

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.