A serial crucifix vandal has claimed another victim, ruining a unique glass cross on top of a mountain.

A hiker discovered that the 10-foot glass crucifix on the top of Schartwand in the Tennen Mountains near the Austrian city of Salzburg had apparently been toppled and oddly bent.

Summit crucifixes are common in the mountains of the region but similar attacks have plagued both Austria and Germany over the past few months.

Hiker David Waldmann said: "I thought first that I had just passed it, I only discovered the cross at a second glance. When I was up there a month ago, everything was still as usual."

Only a few hours later Roland Steiner - the initiator of the project that put up the cross on the Schartwand - was on the spot for an inspection. He had learned the day before from friends what had happened.

Steiner said that the crucifix was manufactured by a local glassmaker before it was flown to the summit in 2010, costing a total of 22,000 EUR (18,958 GBP).

A picture shows it intact but lying on the ground and bent at the bottom, as if it had been melted.

Both men do not think that bad weather might have caused the cross to crash down. Steiner said that this would require temperature fluctuations of between 60 to 100 degrees Celsius within minutes, which does not happen naturally.

According to Steiner, the wind can also be ruled out as a culprit, not least because the attack surface on the cross is relatively small. He now wants to make a technical check on the cross.

For this, the fallen cross will be brought into the valley by helicopter in the coming days. Then it will be examined to determine whether vandals were at work or not.

Whether a new glass cross will be set up is not yet certain.

Steiner said: "The cross was made with love, and I dedicated it to my parents, among other things."

In recent months, the giant Christian cross that stands atop the 2,102-metre (6,896-foot) Schafreuter Mountain at the border of Germany and Austria has already been attacked twice.

Police have confirmed that for months now, a person or persons unknown went around Alpine peaks to destroy crosses with either an axe or a saw.

The first attack was recorded on the Dudl-Alm in the German state of Bavaria, with another on 30th June at the neighbouring Prinzkopf. On 1st August, Laerchkogel Mountain was targeted, while on 27th August, Schafreuter was attacked the first time.

Local German police spokesman Josef Mayr said previously that the attack could be connected to religion. They are speculating that someone wants to "free" the mountain from religious or Christian symbols.

The glass cross installed in 2010 was the first of its kind.

CEN/Bergrettung Salzburg
The destroyed glass cross in Austria
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Author: Koen Berghuis

Koen Berghuis is ViralTab's roving correspondent and editor of the Benelux & German desk.