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The Basilica Of The Nativity Of The Virgin Mary

The Basilica of the Nativity of the virgin Mary, often used the name Mariazell Basilica (it. Basilica Maria Geburt. it. Basilika von Mariazell) — Catholic Cathedral in Mariazell, Austria, Federal state of Styria. Known as a place to keep wooden figures of the virgin, called “Magna Mater Austriae” (Great Mother of Austria), revered as a national Shrine. The Church bears the honorary title of “minor Basilica”. The main place of Catholic pilgrimage in Austria. The monument of architecture.


In 1103 the land on which now stands Mariazell was given to the monks of the Benedictine monastery of St. Lambrecht. According to legend, in 1157, a monk Magnus built a cell for himself and a chapel for the miraculous image, and later joined by other monks, marking thus the beginning of a new city. The exact date of construction of the Church of Mariazell is unknown, the approximate date indicates the beginning of the XIII century. The Church was founded on the site of a chapel built by a monk Magnus in 1157. The first mention of the Church of Mariazell, built in the Romanesque style, belongs to 1243, an altar dedicated to the virgin Mary was consecrated in 1266. The main initiator of construction of the Romanesque Church on the site of a small chapel, was Margrave of Moravia Vladislav III, who, according to tradition,was healed of a grave illness after praying before the miraculous sculpture.

In the XIV century the Romanesque Church was completely rebuilt in the Gothic at the initiative of the king of Hungary Louis the Great. The new Church building was crowned the 90-metre spire. In 1420 and 1474, the Church suffered from fires. In the XVII century, the Emperor Ferdinand III donated a large sum to the new restructuring of the Church. Restructuring took place in 1644 to 1683 under the leadership of Italian architect Domenico Cassia and brought to the Gothic structure of many Baroque elements. A new Baroque interior of the Church was created by famous architect J. B. Fischer von Erlach.

In 1907 the Church of Mariazell was given the honorary status of “minor Basilica”. From 1992 to 2007 the Church underwent a comprehensive restoration. In 1983, the pilgrimage to Mariazell made by Pope John Paul II, and in September 2007 Benedict XVI .

The architecture and interior design

The architecture of the Church combines Gothic and Baroque features. The facade of the Church represents an original Gothic composition of the Central parts, with the main entrance at the bottom and the bell tower and side towers, typical of the Italian Baroque. In front of the main entrance are two sculptures in full growth, created by the master Balthasar Mall in 1757. To the left of the entrance stands the statue of Louis the Great, king of Hungary, and to the right of Vladislav III, Margrave of Moravia.

In the interior of the Cathedral is the Central altar — a masterpiece of Baroque art created by Fischer von Erlach. On the sides of the temple are twelve side chapels with their altars.

The oldest part of the building is chapel of Mercy, which is the miracle-working sculpture. The altar of the chapel made by Augsburg masters, silver bars created by Th. Wagner from Vienna in 1750 by order of Maria Theresa.

In the Treasury of the Church houses numerous works of religious art — tabernacles, paintings, vestments of the clergy.

The Image Of The Virgin Mary

The main relic of the temple is a 48 centimetre statue of the virgin Mary, carved from Linden wood. The image is attired in richly-embroidered garments and crowned with a Golden crown. According to legend, a monk of the Benedictine monastery of St. Lambert named Magnus was sent to Mariazell. A man took a wooden image of our lady. December 21, 1157, Magnus came across impassable rock, blocked his way. After praying before the image of the virgin Mary and the rock split open, revealing a monk the way for passage. Shaken by the miracle, Magnus had constructed a small cell for himself and a chapel, in which was placed the miraculous statue.


The tradition of pilgrimage to Mariazell begins in the XII century. Mass character they acquired from 1330, from this period the courts sometimes imposed on offenders duty to make a pilgrimage to Mariazell, in a sign of redemption.

Since XIV—XV centuries the number of pilgrims included not only Austrians. A significant part of them constituted the Hungarians, the Czechs and residents of other neighbouring countries of Austria. After the counter-Reformation, the Habsburgs gave Mariazell the status of national shrines. Emperor Joseph II along with the many monasteries of Austria and dissolved the monastery in Mariazell, and forbade pilgrimage, however, the ban was soon lifted. Currently, the pilgrimage to Mariazell makes about one million people a year.