One of the most famous and popular Marian Shrines in central Europe is found in the Styrian Mountains, 50 miles southwest of Vienna, Austria. Covered in snow for most of the winter months, it has become the Lourdes of the region. The miraculous wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been venerated for centuries, where it resides today.
The story of Our Lady of Mariazell begins in the middle of the 12th century with a Benedictine monk by the name of Magnus. To focus on a more contemplative life, this man left his Benedictine abbey. While traveling and looking for a place to build his hermitage, he came upon a massive bolder, which blocked him from continuing on further. Desiring to continue in this direction, Magnus removed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin from his belongings, put the statue on a log nearby, and began to pray for direction. Within moments, a miraculous thing happened – the earth trembled, a loud crack was heard, and rays of light came forth from the boulder – the large rock broke into two pieces. At that point, the monk realized this was the spot for his hermitage. He immediately began to build a small shrine around the wooden statue. As news spread of this miracle, pilgrims began to show up.
The statue that once belonged to Magnus and can still be viewed today is known as Magna Mater Austriae. The statue is slightly over 18 inches and is housed in the Chapel of Miracles. The statue is the Mother of God holding in her arms the Child Jesus. The Infant Jesus holds in his hands an apple, the fruit most associated with the Fall of Man, which He would redeem on the Cross. Our Lady of Mariazell is also known as – The Great Mother of Austria, The Great Lady of Hungary, and the Great Mother of the Slavic People.
Countless miracles have taken place on the spot for the peoples of the region. Pilgrims from Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, and Czechoslovakia, as well as pilgrims from around the world have knelt before the image of Our Lady. Jewels, crowns, and holy garments have been brought to the Great Mother of Zell.
Historically, the shrine has been blessed with numerous kingdoms involved with its development. King Henry I received a miraculous cure after going to Zell. King Louis the Great of Hungary attributes Our Lady’s intercession to his victory over the Turks in the late 14th century. Due to her grief being relieved from the Great Lady, the Hapsburghs Empress, Maria Theresa, gave a gift to the shrine – a lamp of pure silver, which burns before the altar.
It is estimated that around one million pilgrims make their way to the shrine of Our Lady of Mariazell, which over the years has been built, added upon, rebuilt due to fires and finally expanded to the current structure today. In 1907, Pope Saint Pius X elevated the shrine to a Minor Basilica and crowned the statue. On the nights before the feasts of The Assumption of Mary (August 15), The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8), and on Our Lady of Mariazell (September 13), great processions are made to the shrine.
Our Lady of Mariazell…Pray for Us
“Our Lady of Zell.” Roman Catholic Saints, http://www.roman-catholic-saints.com/our-lady-of-zell.html.