Maximiliansgrotte - Martinswandgrotte

Useful Information

Kaiser Maximilian in der Martinswand, Ferdinand von Harrach, 1903. Public Domain.
Location: Zirl.
(47.269416, 11.270184)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Trail: L=1.8 km, VR=200 m, D=1 h.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Kaiser-Max-Grotte
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1484 Kaiser Maximilian I trapped in the cave.
1936 wooden statue of Kaiser Maximilian I created by the sculptor Johannes Obleitner.
2015 Grottensteig trail renovated.


Its not easy to visit the Kaiser-Max-Grotte (Emperor Maximilian Grotto), as it is located in the middle of a vertical cliff face named Martinswand, 200 m above the valley floor. Kaiser Maximilian I of Austria learned this when he was hunting and was not able to find his way down again. So he stayed in the cave for several days, enjoying the spectacular view on the Inn valley, the city Innsbruck, and the Stubai mountain ridge to the south, until he was finally rescued. Obviously the era before cell phones. And that's the story how the cave got its name:

Emperor Maximilian I was a passionate hunter and was very fond of chamois hunting. One day, when he came up here on a hunt, he lost his path and could no longer go forward or back. He was trapped in the Martinswand and waited in the grotto for help. He spent two days here.
According to legend the village at the foot of the Martinswand, takes its name from this event. As the Emperor begged for help he said "wenns denn nur kematen" ("if only they would come"). This is how the village got its present name Kematen.
Emperor Maximilian was finally saved after two days by a peasant boy. But when he was on safe ground the peasant boy just disappeared, and it was thought that a guardian angel had rescued the Emperor. To commemorate his rescue, the Emperor had the large cross erected in the grotto. From this day the cave was called the Emperor Maximilian Grotto.

Today the cave has a railing, two huge crosses and benches for the tired visitors. Its also unclear how much of the cvae is natural and how much was dug into the wall. According to one version of the story Maximilian I was trapped on a narrow ledge in the wall, and he ordered the creation of the cave to commemorate his rescue. It is rather popular, especially in the late afternoon. It is also frequented by climbers, because a rather difficult climbing route from the foot of the cliff ends here.

Today there is a confortable trail allowing access to the cave. Starting point is the Red Cross station at the city limits of Zirl. From here a gravel road leads to the huge limestone quarry of Plattner & Co Kalkwerk. The trail was built on the mountain slope above the quarry and after less than 2 km the Kaiser-Max-Grotte is reached. The trail was modernized only a few years ago, is rather wide and has railings and steel ropes along the wall for security. It does not require mountaineering skills, surefootedness, no fear of heights and a short rope and carbine for safety are much recommended though.