The source of Marian shrines usually involves a miracle or apparition of Mary. They are places of pilgrimage recognised by Catholic or Orthodox Christianity where the cult is dedicated to a miraculous image or statue of Mary. Shrines typically have churches built on them or spaces suitable for pilgrimages. In Europe, the best-known shrines include Lourdes, Mariazell, or Fatima in Portugal.
We have already written about reproductions of sacred images in the Baroque period. Owing to the engravings, the miraculous, healing and cult objects of the shrines reached people's homes. The engravings, which pilgrims took home with them as part of their pilgrimage, were usually blessed or made sacred by touching them to the original icon.
The tearful virgin of Pócs
On 4 November 1696, in the small wooden church of the village of Pócs, the praying believers noticed that their icon of Mary was weeping. The event of tearing filled the people present with admiration, and the news spread quickly, thus crowds arrived at the church in the following days. The weeping continued for two weeks without a break, and then, with minor interruptions, was experienced until 8 December. However, it was not only the tears that were recorded, there was also a miraculous healing associated with the holy picture. The parish priest of the neighbouring village of Kálló raised a dying child to the image; the child touched it and was healed.
The icon was originally commissioned by the judge of Pócs, in memory of his release from Ottoman captivity, and painted by István Papp for six Hungarian forints. The fact that the judge was unable to pay and Lőrinc Hurta bought the painting is just a small part of the fascinating story of the painting. Lőrinc Hurta did not keep his icon of the Mother of God, but donated it to the local Orthodox Catholic community, who placed it in their church.
The icon of Mary, however, did not stay in Pócs for long, as news of the miraculous healings and the weeping icon reached the Viennese court. In 1697, the wife of Emperor Leopold I took the icon to Vienna. It was during its stay abroad - namely on 11 September 1697 - that Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Ottomans decisively at Zenta. The fact that they owed their victory to Mary was attested to in a bull issued by Emperor Leopold in 1701.
Since December 1697, the holy picture has adorned the high altar of St Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) in Vienna. It is interesting to note that the icon in Vienna never wept again, nor was it hurt in any way by the damages to the cathedral and the collapse of the roof at the end of the Second World War.
Naturally, the residents of Pócs were not reconciled to the deprivation and tried several times to reclaim it, without success. To appease them, the Emperor had a copy made by István Telekessy, Bishop of Eger, to put it to the empty place of the icon.
On 1 August 1715, the copy started weeping. The phenomenon repeated the next day and again three days later, and was confirmed by the testimony of more than a hundred witnesses during the investigation launched by the Archbishop of Eger. The village then took on the prefix Mária (Mary), and from then on, it was called Máriapócs. Between 1731 and 1749, the present church was built to house the holy icon and to serve the increasing pilgrimage, and in front of it, a smaller wooden church welcomed pilgrims.
After almost two hundred years, the miracle repeated for the third time on 3 December 1905. The guardian of the shrine was leading pilgrims into the church when, opening the frame of the image, he noticed that Our Lady's face was darker than usual and that a tear-duct was running down from her right eye, ending in a tear drop. This time, the weeping lasted until 19 December and then repeated on the last two days of the same month. The icon has not shed tears since then, but Máriapócs has become the most visited shrine in the country, with some 600,000 pilgrims a year coming to the now National Shrine, famous for the Weeping Virgin Mary image. The role of the shrine is special, as it is where the Eastern and Western Churches meet, with Máriapócs acting as a bridge between them. In 1948, Pope Pius XII granted the church the title of basilica minor. In 1991, Pope John Paul II celebrated a Holy Liturgy in Byzantine rite in front of the icon. Since 2005, it has been a National Shrine and one of the main stops on the "Way of Mary".
The miracles of Gyűd
Máriagyűd, the famous place of pilgrimage, is part of the town Siklós today, at the feet of the mountain Tenkes. It was originally an independent village; it was later annexed to the town. According to tradition, it was named after the son of one of the chiefs of the Hungarian conquerors. The settlement was already inhabited in the Roman times and has had a church since 1333. During the Ottoman conquest, a legend spread about a statue of Mary, for which the Benedictine monks, who had settled here earlier, built a chapel. After the statue had disappeared mysteriously, it was found at a miraculous well.
According to contemporary records, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Catholic farmer named Thomas in 1687, when the church was in the hands of the Reformed Church, but shortly after the apparition, it was returned to the Catholic Church. After that, the church and its surroundings were believed to have healing powers, so the people from Siklós flocked here to escape the plague of 1738, and the epidemic miraculously ended.
The statue, which can still be seen today, was donated to the shrine in 1713 by Ferenc Vilmos Nesselrode, Bishop of Pécs. At the synod of Pécs in 1714, the sources tell of Gyűd, adorned with the "miraculous statue and church of the Virgin Mary", where the faithful arrived on hearing the news of miraculous healings and apparitions of Mary. Between 1723 and 1799, 302 cases were recorded. In 1805, Pope Pius VII granted Máriagyűd indulgence privileges. The 106 crutches left behind bear witness to these miraculous healings, so do the thanksgiving plaques on the walls of the church shrine. In 1846, János Scitovszky, the county bishop of Pécs, officially declared Máriagyűd a pilgrimage shrine.
It would be difficult to list the miraculous healings and apparitions that have taken place at the Marian shrines. From Mátraverebély-Szentkút to Máriabesnyő, countless miraculous cases have been recorded. In the former place, Mary appeared to a mute shepherd boy who started speaking after having drunk from a freshly upwelling spring. In the latter, the paralysed hand of a butcher from Gödöllő was healed after his prayer to the Virgin Mary.
Pilgrimages still have great importance in the world today. The Central European Pilgrimage Route of the Marian Shrines, the Way of Mary, runs from Mariazell in Austria, through Hungary, to Csíksomlyó in Transylvania, and passes through some sixty shrines.
Translated by Zita Aknai