Austria: Our Lady of Mariazell Shrine
The story of Mariazell:
This is perhaps the most famous shrine in Austria and one of the most visited shrines in Europe, drawing an estimated one million visitors each year. The story is an old one, dating from December 21, 1157. On that date a Benedictine Monk named Magnus was walking in the forest as he searched for a place to build a monastery. He came upon a large rock formation that was too large for him to get around or climb over and so he knelt in prayer asking the Blessed Virgin to help guide him on his quest.
After a short time in prayer he heard a loud rumbling sound and the rock formation split in two, leaving an opening wide enough for him to pass through. He walked a short distance through the opening and then placed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin on the branch of a tree. Later with the help of some other monks he built a small chapel to house the statue.
As word of the miracle spread, naturally pilgrims began to come to see the statue and over the years the chapel was replaced by a church in 1200, then nlarged by Henry I in 1335, and then in 1363 Louis I of Hungary replaced it with a larger one. Finally in 1377 Louis built the Chapel of Grace and then in 1643 the Emperor Ferdinand expanded the church to the size it is today.
About the Shrine:
The Lady Chapel is located over the spot where it is believed that Magnus placed the statue. Among the millions of pilgrims who have visited here was Pope John Paul II in 1983. Pilgrims may gain a plenary indulgence by visiting the shrine, which now has the title of a Papal Basilica.
The Shrine is open daily: there are daily Masses, confessions and…during the summer months…candlelight processions and other devotions.
Traveling to Mariazell:
Mariazell is south of Vienna, a bit out of the way. You can reach it by train if you first travel from Vienna to St. Polten, then change trains to continue on to Mariazell, with a total travel time of a little over three hours. You can also travel by train from Salzburg, again changing at St. Polten, although this is a six hour journey.
There is a narrow-gauge railway that takes you from St. Polten in to Mariazell, and the train station is about 15 minutes from the center of town where the shrine is located. The narrow-gauge train makes frequent stops but offers breath-taking scenery.
There is also bus service from Vienna but we highly recommend the train to really enjoy the countryside.
Address: Benedictus-Platz 1, 8630 Mariazell, Austria
GPS coordinates: 47° 46′ 22.1448” N, 15° 19′ 7.2372” E
Tel: (+43) 3882 2595-0
email: [email protected]
Click here for the official website of the Mariazell Shrine.
Kevin J. Wright, Catholic Shrines of Eastern Europe, Liguori