The English Church in Zermatt is one of the many interesting places and buildings that tell the history of the town. The English Church of St Peters located on the western edge of Zermatt and dates back to 1870.
The church is cared for by the Intercontinental Church Society (ICS) who provide Anglican chaplains for English speakers who work, study or travel overseas.
Building St Peters Church Zermatt
In the latter half of the 19th century, Zermatt was a popular destination for mountaineers and explorers, many of whom were looking for fame by being the first to conquer the infamous Matterhorn.
As a large number of Zermatt’s early pioneers were British, from 1862 onwards there were regular English language services held in hotels for these visitors.
The timing of the first attempt on the summit of the Matterhorn led by the British Alpine Club coincided with the announcement to build an English church.
On the 14th of July 1865, Edward Whymper commanded the first team to summit the iconic mountain. The success was not the celebration it should have been as only three of the seven men to reach the peak returned. Among the fatalities was Rev Hudson.
This tragedy spurred on the construction of the church, with local hoteliers and business people donating to the fund. The inaugural service in the completed chapel was held five years later in June 1870.
St Peters Church, Zermatt
The church is a beautiful, low white-walled building with a high copper-slated roof and spire, similar in style to many classic country churches built in the UK at that time. It also takes inspiration from its alpine surroundings.
Once you have taken in the headstones and memorials outside, you enter the building under three large arches and subtle stained glass windows into a minimal and classic looking Anglican church interior.
Inside the nave, a simple blue carpet decorates the aisle, and there are enough pews to seat 100 worshippers. At the far end of the nave is the pulpit and the altar.
Like many Anglican churches, the windows are high to stop the worshipers being distracted which is probably even more important in such a stunning location.
Working at St Peters, Zermatt
If you happen to be an ordained Anglican vicar and keen skier you could apply to be the seasonal chaplain at St Peter’s Church in Zermatt.
Fiona Schneider has been the Chaplain on three occasions. We asked here what it was like to lead the church in Zermatt:
“Firstly, it is a huge privilege, because of the location and beauty, but chiefly because people are open. They are open to talk about their life story, concerns, belief and faith or lack of it. Jesus can meet people at these points.”
“The seasonal chaplains’ “parishioners “ are scattered around the world within days. If I can share the love of Christ with anyone, and Christ meets them at their point of need in Zermatt, which he does time and time again, isn’t this the most awesome, astonishing experience for them, for me, and for eternity?”
— Fiona Schneider (@Fisch108) 10 April 2018
Doing a ski season as a Chaplain could be the ultimate way to spend a winter. In between attending to your flock and leading prayers you could be getting fresh tracks.
Memorials at the English Church in Zermatt
In and around the church you will find numerous plaques, memorials and graves of mountaineers that have died in the mountains surrounding St Peters.
Underneath the altar you will find the remains of Rev Hudson, who failed to survive the final descent of the Matterhorn on that historic day in 1865.
— English Chaplain (@EngChZermatt) 7 April 2018
Opening times of St Peters Church, Zermatt
The church is open daily for prayers and visitors. English language services are held at 10am and 6.30pm on Sundays with a ‘Social Hour’ at 5.30pm on Thursdays. There are special services at Christmas and Easter.
If you are looking to take your next winter pilgrimage to Zermatt, why not look in on one of our luxury catered chalets?
Please contact Ed or Suzanne from Matterhorn Chalets and they can find the right accommodation for you.