Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic Dictionary


MARIAZELL (shrine)


The most famous place of pilgrimage to Mary in Central Europe, high in the Austrian Alps. Its origins go back to 1154, when Magnus, a Benedictine monk retired from the abbey at Lambrecht to live a more contemplative life. He carried with him a twenty-two-inch simple statue of Mary and her infant Son. He lost his way in the woods near Graatz, and night found him facing a high rock that he could neither climb nor go around. He placed the statue on a log while he prayed to Our Lady for direction. The high black rock suddenly split in two and light shone forth from its severed edges. He realized that Mary had led him there and wanted to be honored in that place. He built a small hermitage with at tree stump for a pedestal to hold the statue. About a century later a neighboring prince and his wife were seriously ill. Being told in a dream to go to the hermitage and pray, they were cured. In gratitude they built a church on the spot. The statue of Our Lady of Mariazell, though over eight hundred years old, has never shown any sign of wear or decay. The Madonna is seated, her dress is white, with a blue mantle. The Infant holds an apple in his hand. Mary is holding a pear. The first church replacing the small chapel was built in 1200. In 1340 the King of Hungary erected a larger church to accommodate the pilgrims. In the seventeenth century the present Baroque edifice was built. The Austro-Hungarian rulers considered it their most cherished shrine. Veneration to Mary and her Son continued under all vicissitudes until grave war dangers forced a temporary concealment of the treasured statue. This shrine has maintained its Austrian character though it has been a haven to people from many nations. In 1975 Cardinal Mindszenty was buried at Mariazell, his personally designated final resting place.