Shrines of Europe
Shrines of Europe is an association of the seven most important Shrines to the Virgin marian pilgrimage sites in Europe or more generally a european network composed of municipalities with important marian catholic sanctuaries of great cultural heritage.
Altötting (in Germany), Czestochowa (in Poland), Lourdes (in France),Loreto (in Italy) and Fátima, Fátima (in Portugal) founded the working group in 1996. A few years later Mariazell in Austria joined the group and 2017 the swiss municipality Einsiedeln.
The cities cooperate actively in different fields. Like the promotion of the cities and the development of the region, with respect to the values and memories of the communities. But also the preservation of the history and cultural identity of these places, as well as the exchange of experiences and sharing of knowledge in the management of the territories.
The first contact between Loreto and Altötting was in 1989 which lead to a Sister town twinning two years later. At that time Loreto already had a partnership with the polish marian pilgrimage site Czestochowa, which in turn had partnerships with Lourdes and Fátima.
Over time the participating cities wanted to create a joint communication platform. In 1996, the member cities Altötting, Lourdes, Loreto, Fátima and Czestochowa founded the working partnership „Shrines of Europe“. 2004 they welcomed Mariazell in the group and later in 2017 Einsiedeln. Each year the seven mayors of the marian pilgrimage sites come together for a meeting in one of the member cities to strengthen the cooperation, discuss current issues and plan further projects concerning the association.
The marian pilgrimage sites
Since 1250 years, this city has been a spiritual center of Bavaria and for more than 500 years the most important pilgrimage site in the worship of the Mary, mother of Virgin Mary in Germany. Every year over 1 million pilgrims and visitors are attracted to the wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, also known as the “Black Madonna”.
As a special sign of their deep and loyal bond to the Bavarian National Shrine, the hearts of the Bavarian dukes, kings and electors are stored in gorgeous decorated silver urns across from the altar in the Shrine of Our Chapel of Grace. Among them is the heart of Ludwig II. the "fairy tale king". Due to the strong sentience which the Bavarian people and their monarchs have for the sanctuary of “Our Lady of Altötting”, the town was entitled the “Heart of Bavaria”.
Also several popes visited the city of Altötting. First Pope Pius VI in 1782 then Pope John Paul II in 1980 and later Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, who called this place his “spiritual homeland”. Two years after pope Benedicts vistit, he awarded the town with the Golden Rose as a symbol of his great esteem for the Marian shrine.
The narration of two miraculous healings in the year 1489 label the rise of pilgrimages to Altötting: two young children were saved by prayers to Mother Mary at the altar. In the years afterwards even more miraculous healings and fulfilled requests were reported. The stories of all those miracles are told by the Votive offering|votive pictures around the Chapel.
This city is located in the heart of Central Switzerland close to Zürich|Zurich. One oft he most significant baroque buildings in Switzerland is among others the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln. The Chapel of Our Lady, with the famous "Black Madonna", has been one of the most important pilgrimage places in Europe since the medieval times.
A monk called "Meinrad" came to this region to live as a hermit. In 861, after his violent death, a chapel was erected at the place of his Hermitage (religious retreat)|hermitage. This is the origin of the city’s name, which means hermitage.
In the year of 934 a monastic community was founded at the site of St. Meinrad’s hermitage, and thus dates the beginning of the history of the Benedictine Abbey. In the following centuries The pilgrimage to Our Lady of Einsiedeln developed, as well as to her miraculously sanctified chapel, and attracted pilgrims from all over Europe.
But only in 1466, Einsiedeln became the most important Marian Shrine in Switzerland as in this year the statue of the Madonna was brought to the city and therefore also became a place of worship, hospitality and culture.
In 1704 the foundations were laid for the abbey complex and in 1735 the magnificent baroque abbey church was consecrated.
Even today, the abbey is the home to a dynamic monastic community following the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monks are available for the spiritual needs of the pilgrims, serve in several parishes, and teach at the Abbey School numbering about 350 students.
One of the biggest festivity is the feast of the sanctification of the Chapel of Our Lady, the so called "Engelweihe". The Event celebrates a legendary event which took place in 934. according to the legend Christ himself, in the company of many angels and saints, consecrated the chapel at the place of St. Meinrad's hermitage. "Engelweihe" is celebrated every year on the 13th and 14th of September.
Fátima, also known as „City of Peace“, is the most important Shrines to the Marian sanctuary in Portugal and one of the most important in the world. The city is located around 130 km from Lisbon.
The religious history of the city begins between 1916 and 1917, at a time of war and turbulence of the early twentieth century and the First World War. Three children, who were tending their flock of sheeps, in „Cova da Iria“ experienced manifestations of the Mother of God and an angel. The Marian appearance of Our Lady repeated on the 13th day of each month between May and October 1917. The great message of peace was transmitted to the world by the three children. Inspired by their faith and devotion to Our Lady and the praying of the Rosary. During the last apparition of the Virgin on October 13th, 1917 several thousand people witnessed the amazing "Miracle of the Sun", as the present pilgrims saw the sun dancing in the sky. At the exact place of the miracle is now a marble column and a small chapel made of stone.
The story of the marian apparitions and the three seers can be followed by the pilgrim by visiting their tombs inside the Basilica or visiting their houses in the village of Aljustrel At this sacred spot the chapel of the apparitions was built which contains the image of Our Lady of Fatima. On the huge square around it one can see the basilica with the tombs of the three seers and the new Church of the Holy Trinity.
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries many popes visited Fatima. In 2017, one hundred years after the first apparition, Pope Francis canonised two of the seers of Fatima, Jacinta and Francisco.
An old tradition indicated that the walls of „Santa Casa“ come from Nazareth in Galilea: the bith place of Mary, Our Lady Mary. Where she grew up and received the angelic announcement.
The legend is evidence of the people’s devotion and strong belief. It tells about angels, who transported the house. Current studies about this story have developed the hypothesis of a transportation carried out by man, by way of sea and land, that was made possible thanks to special assistance from above.
The Holy Chamber consits of two essentially different parts. The first part reaches from the ground up to a height of 3 meters and is made of the original wall: Sandstone blocks built in regular rows, as one can find in Nazareth. The second part was added above afterwards with Le Marche local brick, the only building material used in the area for that method of construction.
Around the Santa Casa Basilica della Santa Casa|the basilica was built in 1469. Fist according to the plans of Marino di Marco Cedrino in late gothic style. Later in 1587 its facade was completed in the late renaissance style.
The square, bordered on the east side by the facade of the basilica with its bell-tower, on the north and west by the Apostolic Palace and on the south by the Illiric Palace, is also embellished by a central fountain.
The treasury or Hall of Pomarancio was built at the beginning of the 17th century to house liturgical ornaments, vestments and the votive gifts offered by the believers. The excellent Fresco|frescos are by Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio (1605-1610), with ten stories from the life of the Madonna, six prophets and six Sibyl|Sibyls. These frescos are considered masterpieces of late roman mannerism.
Lourdes is located in south-west-france near the spanish border. The pilgrimage to Lourdes began with the series of in total 18 marian apparition from the 11th February to 16th July 1858. The first one appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in the cave Massabielle by the river Gave, the Virgin Mary was a lady surrounded by light who looked at her and smiled. Seventeen more were to follow. Each year, millions of people from all over the world travel Lourdes to visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Omnipresent in Lourdes is water. On the one hand in form of the River Gave and on the other the water in the spring that Bernadette discovered on the 25th February 1858, which is a symbol of purification. A significant spiritual experience for every pilgrim to visit Lourdes is bathing in the pools of the spring.
Since the marian apparitions, the sanctuary has been organized to receive large numbers of sick pilgrims and facilitate their attendance. There are now two medical reception centers here to welcome any elderly, sick and disabled pilgrims who require help, in comfortable and safe surroundings.
Every day from April to October at 5 pm the eucharistic procession is held with the receiving of special blessing. This is a particularly moving experience for sick and disabled worshippers.
Also from April to October every evening at 9 pm a torchlight procession takes place. It is the most moving part of the day at Lourdes and an opportunity for prayer much valued by pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes. During the Christmas period, the torchlight procession takes the form of a rosary of burning torches in front of the cave of the apparitions at 8.30 pm.
The heart of the town is its magnificent basilica, which attracts both pilgrims and visitors for centuries. Many generations have left their marks here, as seen in the treasury, Votive offering pictures and offerings left by pilgrims throughout the years. The Magna Mater Austriae (Magna Hungarorum Domina, Mater Gentium Slavorum), the icon in the Mariazell Basilica, is a symbol of the journey for many of the people who visit Mariazell, often helping them to find their own aim in life.
The destination of most Pilgrims is the about 50 cm high, wooden Madonna with her child, named "Magna Mater Austria“. The statue is clothed in daedal dresses, except on two occasions: September the 8th (Nativity of Mary) and December 21st (Foundation of the monastery).
According to legend, a monk named Magnus was assigned by the abbot of St. Lambrecht to travel to a valley named “Zellertal”. He took along a figure Madonna that he had carved himself. As a huge rock blocked his way, he prayed to Mother Mary. She then divided the rock and cleared the way. As this happend he placed the Madonna on a wooden stump, which is still part of today’s Altar (Catholic Church)|altar.
Primarily due to the image of Black Madonna of Our Lady, Częstochowa is known to many people around the world. The icon of the Black Madonna is located in the monastery of the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Góra. At the 15th August, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary attracts about 100,000 pilgrims from Poland and all over the world every year to Częstochowa. The most important destination for the pilgrims is the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady.
The iconic image is about 82 x 122 cm, is made of lime wood and depicts a Madonna and Child. The image is located in the richly decorated Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa in the Jasna Góra Monastery and was damaged in 1430 during the Hussite Wars.
Ladislaus von Oppeln founded the Pauline Monastery in 1382 at Jasna Góra hill and donated the image of the Black Madonna two years later. In the middle of the 17th century, King Johann II Kasimir consecrated his nation to “Our Lady of Czestochowa”. Thanks to the image of Black Madonna of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the city is known to countless people around the world.
At the Altar (Catholic Church)|altar of Our Lady the List of Polish kings set out on military expeditions and brought here their votive offerings.John Paul II also offered the golden rose and the belt he wore during attempt on his life in 1981 and was shot through by a bullet. Both are now placed next to the image of the Black Madonna.
The chaple consists of three parts, built in different eras. The oldest part is from the 17th century and built in gothic style. With an altar made of ivory and silver, its now the presbytery. The second part is built in a baroque style and is decorated with votive offerings to show gratitude to Mother Mary for hearing the prayers. The third part of the chapel is from the 20th century.
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