Before considering his unique project to create a network of six museums dedicated to mountains and their culture, one must first consider Reinhold Messner himself. Born in northern Italy’s Villnöss valley in 1944, Messner became the most famous alpinist of his generation. He completed the first ascent of Everest without artificial oxygen, as just one of many noteworthy achievements confronting nature and all her extremes. By now his C.V. also includes roles as photographer, film-maker, author, public speaker and even representative of Italy’s Green Party in the European Parliament.
Messner has always desired to experience and reveal nature’s purity and scale without depending on artificial means. His minimalistic approach has shaped the later stages of his career, centered around environmental sustainability. The most eloquent expression of this has been the creation of his six museums in South Tyrol and Belluno, Veneto.
At the heart of the network, the central museum MMM Firmian in Sigmundskron, near Bozen, focuses on the encounter between a man and the mountains. A fortified location since 945 A.D., the castle’s winding paths and stairs lead visitors through the origins and evolution of mountaineering, including ancient religious significance of the peaks and modern alpine tourism. In August, every Tuesday at dusk, visitors can interact with Messner himself who tells stories from his life and answers questions from the audience.
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The museum at Juval castle showcases the magic of the mountains, “the peaks that have a special meaning for the local inhabitants.” It is home to a fine art collection as well as a small mountain zoo and farmhouse shop. On the neighbouring hillsides one can see the vineyards and orchards that belong to the estate winery and distillery. The organic farm shop is part of a local cooperative of over 100 members.
MMM Ripa, housed in Bruneck castle, is dedicated to the people of the mountains. As Messner says, after all, “it is the people in the mountains who give them life and history.”
MMM Corones, designed by architect Zaha Hadid and spectacularly located on the Kronplatz, highlights traditional mountaineering that shaped Messner’s own ABC philosophy – “A is no artificial oxygen. B is no bolts. And C is no communication systems.” The views from this summit plateau go beyond South Tyrol’s borders into neighbouring Austria and Marmolada in the south.
“The focus is not on sport and records but on people... who had the courage to take the golden step from the idea to the deed...”
The Museum in the clouds, located on Monte Rite, perhaps tops MMM Corones with its views. Housed in an old military fort, it emphasises man’s conquest of the Dolomites but also Messner’s love for his home mountains and his belief that he has “never seen more beautiful rock forms in the world than those of the Dolomites.”
Finally, from the clouds to the depths of the earth, MMM Ortlers’ subterranean structure is dedicated to the world of ice and the terrors of life “at the end of the world.”
All six locations are interconnected with the paths and roads that link them contributing to the overall experience. A fine testament to the man himself who believed that “the wonderful things in life are the things you do, not the things you have.”
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