Find out why believers from all over world enjoy and soak up the spiritual atmosphere of more than 5 centuries of Marian pilgrimage to the town of Altötting, Bavaria.
Germany has a lot to offer to Expats of faith. One of the more notable religious processions is the pilgrimage to Altötting. Altötting is one of the most important Marian pilgrimage sites in Europe and year after year the destination of thousands of pilgrims who make their way to the “Black Madonna” in the Chapel of Mercy to ask for help. According to legend, a miracle happened here in 1489: A little boy, believed dead after falling into a stream, opened his eyes again after his mother and other believers prayed.
Below is an overview of what to expect in Altötting.
Pilgrimage to Altötting at a glance
The attraction of the “Black Madonna” in Altötting has over the years grown very steady especially after two papal visits to the Bavarian national shrine :
- Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the “Black Madonna” site during his visit to Germany in 1980
- Pope em. Benedict XVI paid a visit to the “Black Madonna” site during his visit to his home diocese in 2006
Altötting is one of the so-called “Shrines of Europe”, the seven most important Marian pilgrimage sites in Europe.
- A wide network of pilgrimage routes around the pilgrimage town for extended multi-day tours through to leisurely afternoon hikes
- Accompanied pilgrimage
- Information and tips for pilgrims
Why and how did the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting become so famous?
The Shrine of Altötting because famous because of 2 miracles:
- In 1489, a first miracle occurred. A three-year-old boy had drowned in a stream, and he was only removed after half an hour. His mother, in tears, took him in her arms, and ran towards the chapel. There, she placed the body of her child on the altar and begged the Virgin Mary to bring it back to life. And suddenly the miracle happened: God gave life to the child.
- Shortly after, a second miracle took place: a little six-year-old child fell from a horse pulling a large cart. Not being able to be stopped in time, the cart crushed the child. The child was dead and there was no hope of bringing it back to life. So his parents prayed to Our Lady of Altötting, and the next day the little boy was alive. In addition, his body did not keep any traces of his injuries.
5 centuries of pilgrimage to the Altötting
The pilgrimage town of Altötting – the heart of Bavaria – is located in the idyllic Upper Bavarian Alpine foothills between Munich, Passau and Salzburg. The Chapel of Mercy with the Black Madonna is the symbol of the city and the destination of pilgrims. For more than 5 centuries, Altötting has been the most important place of pilgrimage in German-speaking countries. It is where believers come to switch off, enjoy and soak up the spiritual atmosphere of pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary.
The baroque Kapellplatz invites you to do so, especially at the end of the day when the evening sun lets the square and the Chapel of Grace appear in a very special light. Quiet oases and spiritual refueling stations can also be found around the city center: How about a break in the “oasis”, the meditation room in the Capuchin monastery of St. Konrad, a silent prayer in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Adoration Church or a meditative walk through the gardens of the Altöttinger Kreuzweg.
The Black Madonna in Altötting
The destination of the believers who make the pilgrimage to Altötting from all over the world is the Black Madonna, which is located in the Chapel of Mercy on Kapellplatz. Every year more than 1 million believers make a pilgrimage to Altötting to marvel at the Madonna in all her glory.
Our Lady of Altötting, a Bavarian shrine whose Black Madonna dates from the 9th century, became famous especially from the 15th century. From the Middle Ages, however, the Germanic princely houses followed one another in devotional exercises, so that the ‘holy chapel’ still preserves, in an urn, the hearts of the reigning dukes and kings of the Wittelsbach family (family of the famous Empress Sissi) as well as the remains of Commander Tilly.
Information & tips for pilgrims to Altötting
1. Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of Mercy)
The world-famous Gnadenkapelle is not only known for the “Black Madonna”, but also for the magnificently decorated altar niches and the silver urns in which the hearts of the Bavarian kings and electors are. It is also the place where King Ludwig II’s urn of hearts is kept. The octagon, probably built around 700, in which the “Black Madonna” is enthroned, is an impressive work of art in itself.
2. Anbetungskapelle (Adoration Chapel)
The adoration chapel is located in the former treasury of the collegiate church on Kapellplatz. It was opened on September 11, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI. A tabernacle was erected on an original stone from the Munich Marian Column, which houses the Holy of Holies in a gilded monstrance. This monstrance dates from 1690 and was donated by Franz Josef I, once a Roman and Hungarian king.
3. Altöttinger Kreuzweg (Altöttinger Way of the Cross)
The Altöttinger Kreuzweg was laid out from 1964 to 1971 by the Altöttinger Marienwerk and made barrier-free in 1991 so that wheelchair users can also use the route. The impressive natural stone sculptures are the work of the sculptor Rudo Göschel, who also planned and designed the stations. You should pay special attention to the fountain, which is decorated with the symbols of the seven sacraments.
4. Franziskushaus Altötting
The Franziskushauskirche was built in 1895 and has been shining in the neo-Romanesque style ever since. In 1966 the church was expanded, restored and redesigned by the artist Anton Rückel. Today the church is a popular place for retreats, guests and pilgrims to enjoy the peace and quiet and to immerse themselves in prayer. You can reach the church with a short five-minute walk from Kapellplatz.
5. Pilgrimage to Heiligenstatt
A really great pilgrimage experience awaits you on the 14-station pilgrimage route from Altötting to Heiligenstatt. The path begins at the Ash Chapel and leads over a distance of 5 km to the Heiligenstatt Church in the municipality of Tüßling. The marble wayside shrines were donated by ship master’s wife Katharina Riedl over 160 years ago. When you have arrived in Heiligenstatt, you can comfortably take the train back or you can walk the pilgrim path back to Altötting.