AMONG the high peaks which overhang the Cembra valley, lies a solitary mountain lake whose little outlet falls into the foaming Nevisbach. A small hut at the pointed end of the lake, and a deserted mine which stands close by, surrounded by large heaps of débris, give evidence to the former activity of the spot.
This dark lake is called “Lago Santo” (or Holy Lake).
Where it now stands there used to be a flourishing village, whose inhabitants found in the neighbouring mines plenty of work and wealth; they were a happy and contented race. A few miles off lay King Laurin’s crystal palace, and through the constant communication with this good-hearted mountain King, they became clever and fortunate in all their undertakings. But, as time went on, they grew haughty and independent; foreign miners brought false doctrines into the parish, and as the priest was either too weak or negligent to oppose their wicked practices, in a few years the people became entirely corrupted.
About that time a poor man arrived in the village begging for alms, but all Christian charity had disappeared, and he was turned off from every door, even from that of the wealthy priest. At the end of the village there lived a poor widow woman with a numerous family, who alone gave a piece of bread to the mendicant, who told her in gratitude, “Tonight you will hear a fearful noise in the village; however, you need not be frightened, but pray, and for your life do not look out of the window.”
After saying these words, the beggar disappeared, and when the family had retired to rest, they were awakened at midnight by a terrible storm. The thunder was terrific, and the lightning streamed over the village, setting every building on fire; then the rain fell in torrents, as though the flood-gates of Heaven were opened. The poor widow was dreadfully terrified, and forgetting the command of the beggar, she looked out of the window, but at the same moment she received from an invisible hand such a blow in the face, that she fell senseless to the ground.
As on the following morning she came again to herself, the terrors of the night had disappeared, and the sun shone brilliantly down from Heaven. The widow opened the door of her little hut, and, to her great astonishment, found the whole country changed; the village had sunk beneath the earth, and a dark See was spread over the spot where it used to be; her little hut alone stood unhurt on the borders of the new-formed lake.
Sometimes it is possible to see to the bottom of the lake, where the avaricious priest paces slowly up and down, reading a book; he has neglected the souls which had been entrusted to his care, and therefore he has now to suffer penance.