In 1868-71, Alexander Seiler, a pioneer of tourism in Zermatt, realised a courageous vision. In view of the steady flow of visitors from England, he decided to build an Anglican church in Zermatt. The decision not only strengthened the English community, but also marked a milestone in the development of the up-and-coming tourist destination.
Streams of visitors from England
Between 1868 and 1871, several hundred visitors from England visited Zermatt every year, attracted by the unique mountain landscape and the many opportunities for mountaineering and hiking. Their presence increased the demand for a sacred place where they could practice their faith. The English visitors of that time attached great importance to their faith and wanted somewhere they could worship.
For this reason, tourism pioneer Alexander Seiler built the first Anglican church in Zermatt between 1868 and 1871. It offered the guests a community and a connection to home, and became a place where they felt welcome and could cultivate their religious traditions.
Fusion of nature and faith
The Hotel Riffelalp was legendary among travellers from England because it was considered one of the most outstanding hotels in the region. Alexander Seiler, who recognised the potential, decided to add another attraction to the hotel and ordered the construction of a second Anglican chapel on the Gornergrat. What was special about it was not only that it was a spiritual place, but also that it strengthened the connection between British guests and the majestic mountain landscape.
St. Peter’s English Church quickly became a magnet for travellers from all over the world who admired the harmonious fusion of nature and faith. Its architecture, furnishings and location were deliberately chosen to allow harmonious integration into the majestic mountain landscape and nature. For example, tree trunks and wooden elements were integrated into the design to create a connection with the surrounding forest landscape. Windows and stained glass were artfully designed to capture the light and colours of nature, creating a spiritual atmosphere. The chapel on the Riffelalp was inaugurated in 1884.
A timeless tradition
Today, more than a century later, the Anglican chapel on the Riffelalp has become a cultural centre and serves as a venue for concerts. Musicians from all over the world come together here to present their talent against a unique backdrop. Every year, the Zermatt Festival & Academ transforms the chapel into a stage for captivating performances. In 2023, the festival will take place from 7 to 17 September.