History of pilgrimage site

viewOverlooking the town of Králíky, the Marian place of pilgrimage called the Mountain of Mother of God has been situated at the foot of Králický Sněžník on the very border with Poland for more than 300 years.

The town of Králíky with nearly five thousand residents was mentioned for the first time in 1367. Over the town 760m above sea level, Tobiáš Jan Becker, a native of Králíky, the canon in St Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague and the later bishop in Hradec Králové, founded a magnificent complex of pilgrimage surmounting the hill originally called the Plain Mountain.

The foundation itself was the fulfilment of his previous promise. In the course of the 30-year war children from Králíky and its surroundings came to this place in processions praying and singing Marian songs.

Thebuildingofthecomplexofpilgrimagestarted1696.According to certain testimonies there used to stand a pre-Christian sanctuary on the site of the today’s church. Even in bare hands, people carried timbers and stones for the construction, and worked without asking anything in reward. The building continued fast, and four years later, on August 21, 1700, the Miraculous Image was transferred into the church which was consecrated the same day. According to the heart’s desire of Tobiáš Jan Becker, the founder, the Plain Mountain has been called the Mountain of Mother of God since that time.

On the altar there is the Miraculous Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is the very heart of the place of pilgrimage and the object of veneration. Before being given into the church, it was in possession of Canon Becker. As a student he brought up grandchildren of Countess Putzard in Slatiňany by Chrudim, and saw this copy of the Icon of Saint Mary Major from Rome in her house. He was literally fascinated by the image of the Virgin Mary, and therefore he made an effort to gain it at any cost. In the end, the Countess gave him the picture with a heavy heart. Tobiáš Jan Becker took it wherever he worked as a priest, and asked parishioners to worship the Image as well. He later desired to place the Miraculous Image in the church at the Mountain of Mother of God. It was decorated with silver plate, pearls and a gold bracelet. The Image is usually put down with a special lift in order to be worshipped by pilgrims.

After finishing the complex of pilgrimage, the building of the monastery started. Bishop Becker summoned priests of the Order of Servites who moved into the newly built monastery in 1710. The amount of pilgrims gradually increased in the course of the 18th century; about 152,000 people came in 1728. At the end of the 18th century clouds hang over places of pilgrimage, and under the reign of Joseph II a large amount of both sanctuaries and monasteries were dissolved. Even pilgrimages were prohibited because they seemingly distracted people from work. According to a legend the Mountain of Mother of God was saved due to a quip of one Servite who called the Emperor the centre of the Earth.

However, the disaster came a few decades later: the place of pilgrimage was struck by lightning during a night in August 1846, and both the church and the monastery burnt down. Everything rescued was transferred into the cloister where an extraordinarily valuable collection of Baroque sculptures and wooden carvings is exposed. In one and half a year the church was rebuilt, and reopened. The decoration, though, was added half a century later. At the end of the 19th century the interior of the church was furnished in pseudo-Renaissance style. That time the place of pilgrimage was administered by the Redemptorists who took charge of it after the Servites in 1883. The Redemporists purchased the nearby House of Pilgrimage, and renovated and extended it.

Pilgrimages represented an essential part of the life of Králíky and its surroundings until 1950. Previously, Králíky experienced the war as well: President Edvard Beneš visited the town in 1937 to check the system of fortifications being built in the surroundings. After the secession of this region from Czechoslovakia, Adolf Hitler came for the same reason a year later. During the war a concentration camp started to be built close to Králíky; fortunately, the war finished before being brought into operation.

viewThose events did not directly affect the place of pilgrimage. Nevertheless, everything changed in 1950: due to the decision of the communist government the monastery and the whole complex of pilgrimage were closed to the public in April, and the place of pilgrimage became a centralisation monastery where mainly the Redemptorists were concentrated. In appalling conditions they lived and worked hard there until 1960, some of them were released in 1965. The same year the Czech Catholic Charity took charge of the monastery, and decided to transfer the Sisters of St Francis of the Immaculate Conception who stayed there until 2002. The place of pilgrimage was opened to the public in 1968.

In the late 1970s the contemporary history of the Mountain of Mother of God started. That time the ill countryman Franz Jentschke visited the place of pilgrimage, and his prayers for health were answered. He later initiated the restoration of the chapels of the Stations of the Cross. After working out the costs necessary for the renovation, he set up the Foundation of Mountain of Mother of God which takes care of restoration work on the place of pilgrimage to date. Thanks to the Foundation the whole region is dazzled by the splendour of the Mountain of Mother of God. The Redemptorists took charge of the pastoral care again in 1990, and the House of Pilgrimage was renovated and reopened in 1993. The monastery is the site of a community of the Redemptorists who has organised parish missions since 2002.