For more than 500 years, the Bavarian town of Altötting has been a Marian pilgrimage site. Every year, more than one million Christians from all over Europe and further afield travel to this destination, close to Munich and the Austrian border, in order to catch a glimpse of the Black Madonna statue within the octagonal Chapel of Grace. The image, carved from Lindenwood, gained notoriety for its curative powers after a mother laid her son, who had drowned, in front of the statue and prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The boy was saved. This has led to Altötting being referred to as the Lourdes of Germany and the Chapel of Grace becoming the Shrine of Bavaria.
Whether you practice Christianity or not, a visit to the town will be very interesting and insightful. This is especially the case at Christmas when there is a warm and festive feeling in the air which will stay with you long after you have left. Here are some things you can enjoy during your visit.
Altötting Christmas Market
One of the most beautiful in Bavaria, the Altötting Christmas market is the perfect place to grab some traditional souvenirs or tasty treats. There will be plenty of artistic treasures on offer throughout the stalls and a great selection of tree decorations to commemorate your visit. The 400-year-old tradition of placing nativity scenes around the town will give you a great excuse to explore the charming baroque Chapel Square that hosts the market between November 25th and December 18th, 2016.
If you really want to get in the festive spirit then you should definitely attend one of the traditional carol services held on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at the end of November and beginning of December. The Basilica of St Anne is packed full of people ready to revel in an evening of singing along to their favourite carols. The best part is that you are accompanied by traditional alpine musicians playing folk instruments such as the Alphorn, creating an unmistakably Bavarian atmosphere.
By Allie_Caulfield from Germany [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Panoramic paintings were very popular in the 19th and early 20th century, but this is the only one in Germany that remains intact to this day. As you put yourself in the middle of the painting and gaze all around, you begin to feel part of the image. The Jerusalem Panorama is world-famous and depicts the crucifixion of Christ, making it another important sight for those visiting Altötting on a Marian pilgrimage.
Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum
Pope Benedict XVI spent his childhood and youth in Altötting and the house in which he once lived has been adapted to include the Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum. There are many resplendent and religious pieces on display here, including the Austrian Empress Sissi’s bridal wreath and the ‘Golden Horse’, a piece of French Joyaux once gifted to Charles VI by queen Isabeau of Bavaria.
Whether you go for the beautiful Christmas market or the poignant religious art, Altötting is a town with plenty to offer. You could even consider twining your trip with a visit to Munich or Passau. Contact us today and we will tailor-make your holiday.