The Madonna of Maria Zell, Austria
Maria Zell is one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in all of central Europe, venerated as it is by peoples of such a variety of nations. Not many shrines can claim as many ex-votos of so many different nationalities as Maria Zell. In an area torn by national strife and centuries-old feuds, such a phenomenon is extraordinary indeed.
In 1157, a Benedictine monk named Magnus, taking a small statue of the Madonna and Child, retired into the wilderness, where tradition says the dense trees parted to make way for him. A little chapel was built around a linden tree, the origin of the shrine. Pilgrims as far back as the 15th century attest they have seen the Madonna's face, eyes and lips moving, as if she were alive. The present structure was erected in the 17th century. The middle spire of the Church is of Gothic design, while the outer spires are Baroque.
Many of the pilgrims to Maria Zell perform the same penance up the main stairway. On their knees, arms outstretched, or carrying heavy blocks of stone, the devout faithful advance; sometimes the procession halts while all prostrate themselves on the ground. Person who are unable to make the pilgrimage write letters to the Madonna, which are preserved in the archives. According to the ancient custom they are addressed: "To Our Beloved Mother of Grace."
To our beloved Mother of Grace: Remember, O most gracious Virgin, our loved ones, families, friends and kind benefactors who kneel here in spirit at thy shrine, sending up their sighs to Thee. In Thy clemency, O good Mother, hear and answer their humble petitions, if they be to God's greater honor and glory and for the good of souls. Help them to bear the sweet yoke of Jesus, Thy Son, that they may carry their burdens of this life patiently and lovingly, that they come at last to the eternal rest of thy heavenly abode. Amen.
Visit also: www.marienfried.com