Catholic Dictionary


ALTÖTTING (shrine)


An ancient pilgrimage center in the heart of Bavaria; its original shrine has never been destroyed. One of the richest sanctuaries in the world. It is the site where, in 680, St. Rupert baptized Otto the pagan in a temple built in pre-Christian times. It is now a Catholic chapel to which the people make pilgrimage from May until November to venerate Our Lady and her Son. The larger church built around the first octagonal chapel has been enlarged repeatedly for the crowds that come and need accommodation. The center of attention is an ancient wooden statue of Mary and her Son. They are robed in heavily embroidered white and black mantles. On Good Friday both are draped with black veils. Mother and Child wear costly crowns, and she holds a scepter of jeweled lilies. The walls around the statue and the altar are nearly all of solid silver. The many lamps that burn constantly in thanksgiving for the miraculous cures and favors received here have so blackened the faces of the statue that Mary is often referred to as the Smiling Black Madonna of Altötting. Pope Pius IX's special lamp still burns before Mary's statue as he requested. This shrine has long been considered the heart of Catholic Marian devotion in Southern Germany.