Over this past weekend, I spent most of my time at Prince of Peace Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Oceanside, California for my friend’s Ordination to the Priesthood (see my article later this week). Although I have been here many times before to visit Fr. Bede, I saved this article on Our Lady of Einsiedeln for today simply because I wasn’t aware of it until today.
I knew that I wanted to incorporate today’s “Mondays with Mary” with the Benedictines but didn’t know how to do so until about 5 minutes before departing to drive back to Arizona. One of the women working in the gift shop showed me a picture of Our Lady of Einsiedeln hanging in the gathering area at the monastery. Once I arrived home, I looked it up online and found some history in regards to this Marian title, which is obviously closely associated with the Benedictines. The story is as follows –
A Benedictine monk, St. Meinrad (the Archabbey here in the US is named for him), in the 9th century, departed from a local monastery to construct a hermitage in the wilderness, which would later come Einsiedeln. As he left, he took a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a gift from Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich, which was known to be miraculous. Once arriving in the village, his reputation grew because people knew him to be kind and holy – he often received many visitors.
On January 21, 861, St. Meinrad was killed by two thieves who struck him with a candlestick. They thought he would have a large treasure in his hermitage. Legend says they were both captured after two ravens followed them all the way back to Zurich and began squawking very loudly near them. It is believed that the two ravens were guardians to St. Meinrad.
Many years later, in the year 940, a small band of Benedictine monks turned St. Meinrad’s small hermitage into the Lady Chapel. It has been said that Jesus Christ himself consecrated the chapel on September 14, 948. Although the local Bishop was to consecrate the chapel, he had a vision where he saw the entire chapel lit by a very bright light, where Christ himself approached the altar. When he went into the chapel the next day, he heard a voice saying that the chapel had already been consecrated through divine intervention. Sixteen years later, in 964, Pope Leo VIII confirmed the miracle with a papal bull.
In his possession with him till his death, St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue as an altarpiece in his small hermitage. After his death, the statue was placed in the Lady Chapel so that others could venerate it. The statue became known as Our Lady of Einsiedeln. There were many miracles that were attributed to it and around the year 1000 A.D., pilgrims began to show up to view the statue as well. During the Middle Ages, it is believed that 50,000 pilgrims would pass though the monastery on a weekly basis.
In the year 1620, the Benedictine monastery at Einsiedeln became a school of theology for it’s own clerics and men training to become priests. It’s a small school only having more than 30 students once in its history. Even with attacks and setbacks during the Protestant Reformation and French Revolution, the shrine continues to welcome pilgrims to this day.
The statue that is currently at the shrine is not the original statue but a copy that was made and finished in the year 1466. The original is said to have burned in a fire. It’s a work of art measuring around four feet in height and is art of the late Gothic period. It was brought from Southern Germany or Switzerland. The figure, which is made of wood, is painted strawberry red and gold.
The Mother and child faces were first painted, but have since darkened due to the smoke from the votive candles below it, making it silvery black. It’s been black for many years. For festive occasions, the Benedictine monks dress up the statue. There is a replica of this statue in the abbey church at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California.
Our Lady of Einsiedeln…Pray for Us
St. Meinrad…Pray for Us