Sterzing (German pronunciation: [ˈʃtɛrtsɪŋ]; Italian: Vipiteno [vipiˈtɛːno]) is a comune in South Tyrol in northern Italy. It is the main village of the southern Wipptal, and the Eisack River flows through the medieval town.

Stadtgemeinde Sterzing
Comune di Vipiteno
The Zwölferturm in Sterzing
Location of Sterzing
Location of Sterzing in Italy
Sterzing (Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol)
Coordinates: 46°53′N 11°26′E
RegionTrentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
ProvinceSouth Tyrol (BZ)
FrazioniRied (Novale), Thuins (Tunes), Tschöfs (Ceves)
  MayorFritz Karl Messner
  Total33 km2 (13 sq mi)
950 m (3,120 ft)
 (March 2018)[2]
  Density210/km2 (550/sq mi)
Demonym(s)German: Sterzinger
Italian: vipitenesi
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code0472
WebsiteOfficial website



The town traces its roots to 14 B.C., when Nero Claudius Drusus founded a military camp called "Vipitenum" along the road between what are now Italy and Germany. Ancient ruins found nearby include a sepulchral monument dedicated to Postumia Vittorina, a milestone of the Imperator Septimius Severus period and a stone altar dedicated to Lord Mithras. The first mention of a town called Wibitina dates back to the years between 985 and 990. That name, which is still memorized in Wipptal, is traced back to the nearby Celto-Roman settlement Vibidina.

In 1182, the German name Sterçengum appears in a document of the Sonnenburg abbey.[3]

In 1280, Duke Meinhard of Carinthia, promoted the village to the rank of city. As the region's proximity to the Brenner Pass made it a frequent trade route, the Fugger of Augsburg opened a branch to sort the products of the nearby silver mines in Ridnaun Valley and Pfleres Valley. Sterzing knew its magnificence in the 15th and 16th centuries after the 1443 fire which destroyed part of the town. New embattled houses were built, some late gothic style, in Neustadt (New Town) as: Town and Regional Trial House (1450), Hotel "Goldenes Kreuz" (1446), Fugger's Branch (1553), Rafenstein House (former Köchl, 1472), the Town Hall (1473), Geizkofler House (1600) and the Mining District House (1500) all still in use.

The town is mentioned in several sources from the 16th to 19th centuries as Störzingen.[4][5] In the course of the Italianization of South Tyrol, the modern Italian name of the town Vipiteno - created from the old Roman settlement of Vipitenum was made official.[6] Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, a number of wanted Nazis stayed in Sterzing at the Hotel Goldenes Kreuz which still exists today. At different times, people like Erich Priebke, Adolf Eichmann, and Josef Mengele were in transit here as they waited for forged passports for their journey out of Europe and by ship to South America.

Coat of arms

King Henry I, Count of Tyrol, granted a seal, similar to the present, depicting a crippled pilgrim with a stick and the rosary above the Tyrolean eagle, this appeared as a coat of arms August 30, 1328. In 1524, the pilgrim is shown as a monk above the Tyrolean eagle. [7]

Main sights

Religious architecture

Parish of "Our Lady of Marsh"

The Parish is the biggest church between Verona and Munich and was built from 1417 to 1451. The gothic altar, wood-work by Hans Multscher of Ulm, is 12 metres (39 ft) high and was completed in 1458. The church was later enlarged from 1497 to 1525 by Hans Lutz. In 1753, the church was then modified in baroque style, with paintings by Adam Mölk, and the gothic altar removed; presently the altar is on display at the Multscher Museum.

Holy Spirit Church

The Holy Spirit Church is the oldest gothic church in town. Built in 1399, in the same main building of the old Hospital, is located in the Town Square; the nave is painted in fresco by Giovanni of Bruneck (1402).

Saint Elisabeth Chapel

Saint Elisabeth Chapel is part of the Deutschhaus and was built in Baroque in 172933 by Giuseppe Delai. It has an octagonal plan with a rectangular sector concerning the altar and the choir. The dome frescos represent the patron saint and the coat-of-arms of the Teutonic Order were painted by Matthäus Günther.[8]


The church was built in 1636 and was consecrated the following year to Saint Mary Magdalene; it has a rectangular apse and a lateral chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. The image in the niche on the façade represent the patron saint and is a work of the 17th century. The altar pieces presumably were painted by Josef Renzler in 1800 circa and represent Saint Mary Magdalene with Saint Francis and Saint Anthony; on the lateral altars are depicted Saint Felix and Saint Anthony of Padua.

Saint Margaret Church

The present church was built on the initiative of the Bishop Paulinus Mayr in early Tyrolean baroque on project of Peter Delai in 1678. The old church, mentioned for the first time in 1337, was restored and enlarged between 1459 and 1463 in gothic. In 1678, it was completely demolished, rebuilt, and consecrated in 1681. The bell tower is detached from the church and it comes from the previous church, in 1624, the Romanic tower was demolished and built the present. The façade was inspired to renaissance with the characteristic Palladian tripartite windows. In the niches are placed the wooden sculptures of Saint Margaret and Saint Agnes and above the portal is a fresco showing the Last Supper. The imposing interior has one nave, large windows, and a vaulted ceiling with lunettes. The great high altar has six columns and an altarpiece representing the Coronation of Mary painted by Joseph Renzler in 1822, beside are two wood-carving of the Saints Francis Xavier and John of Nepomuk. Above the altar on the right is placed a statue of the Madonna with Child of 17th century bordered by the Rosary formed by fifteen painted discs presumably by Joseph Mildorfer.

Civil architecture


The Zwölferturm is a 46 m. high tower erected in 1470, it is the symbol of the city that divides the New Town from Old Town. A fire in 1867 destroyed the original spire, which was replaced with the present embattled roof.

Town Hall

Built in 146872 in late gothic style while, the angular "Erker" was added in 1526. In the patio take place a Roman stone altar, dedicated to Lord Mithras and a milestone of the Imperator Septimius Severus; the same period the military road was completed in 200 A.D.

New Town (Neustadt)

It is the main street of the old city centre with buildings erected after the 1417 fire, during a period when the town was prosperous with the trade and the silver mines in the nearby Ridnaun Valley and Pflersch Valley.

Military architecture

Reifenstein Castle

Outside the city is the Reifenstein Castle, one of the best preserved medieval castles in the province.

Notable people from Sterzing

Olden times
  • Vigil Raber (1490–1552) restorer and painter, later writer and editor and pianist[9]
  • Michael Gaismair (1490 Sterzing – 1532), Social revolutionary, Master builder, leader of the German Peasants' War (1524–1525)
  • Michael Toxites (1514–1581), Doctor, Humanist and Literary man[10]
  • Kasper Goltwurm (1524, Sterzing – 1559), Lutheran theologian[11]
More modern times


Linguistic distribution

According to the 2011 census, 73.64% of the population speak German, 25.95% Italian and 0.41% Ladin as first language.[15]


  • Sterzing/Vipiteno is a site to the Orfeo Music Festival, a renowned classical music event .



Sterzing is home of the Leitner Group, an international industry, a manufacturer of cable systems, snowgroomer, utility tracked vehicles, systems for urban rail called minimetrò, and wind turbines.[16]

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Sterzing is twinned with:


  1. "Superficie di Comuni Province e Regioni italiane al 9 ottobre 2011". Istat. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. All demographics and other statistics from the Italian statistical institute (Istat)
  3. Martin Bitschnau; Hannes Obermair (2012). Tiroler Urkundenbuch, II. Abteilung: Die Urkunden zur Geschichte des Inn-, Eisack- und Pustertals. Vol. 2: 1140–1200. Innsbruck: Universitätsverlag Wagner. pp. 301–7 no. 783. ISBN 978-3-7030-0485-8.
  4. Heinrich Schickhardt von Herzenberg, "Beschreibung einer Reis welche der Durchleuchtig Hochgeborne Fürst und Herr, Herr Friedrich zu Würtemberg (...) im Jahre 1599 (…) aus dem Land Würtemberg in Italien gethan", 1602.
  5. Johann Georg Zinner, "Ausführliche und genaue Reisebeschreibung Ihrer königlichen Majestät Marien Josephs (…) ls hochstdieselbe im 1768sten Frühjahre (..) abreiste", 1767.
  6. Egon Kühebacher (1991), Die Ortsnamen Südtirols und ihre Geschichte, Bozen: Athesia, p. 449
  7. Heraldry of the World: Sterzing
  8. German Wiki, Vigil Raber
  9. German Wiki, Michael Toxites
  10. German Wiki, Kasper Goltwurm
  11. 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 11, Gänsbacher, Johann Baptist retrieved 15 June 2019
  12. German Wiki, Carl Domanig
  13. German Wiki, Konrad Fischnaler
  14. "Volkszählung 2011/Censimento della popolazione 2011". astat info. Provincial Statistics Institute of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol (38): 6–7. June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-14.
  15. Leitner Technologies
  16. "Partnerstädte". Stadtgemeinde Kitzbühel (in German). Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  • (in Italian) Guide d'Italia, Trentino Alto Adige, Editrice TCI, 1976
  • (in Italian) Grande Dizionario Enciclopedico, Unione Tipografico - Editrice Torinese, 1962
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