Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora – Marian Hill in Levoca

Mariánska hora (Marian Hill) in Levoča is one of the oldest and best known pilgrimage sites in Slovakia. The pilgrimage that takes place annually on the first Sunday in July may be traced back to the times when the Friars Minor, spreading Marian veneration, consecrated the chapel built on the hill to the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of the 14th century.

The Levoča sanctuary’s history and tradition reaches back to 1247.

Originally, a chapel had been built at a fortified settlement on the hill where processions from neighbouring villages used to come to express their thanks. The pilgrimages continued annually and they grew larger year by year.

Given the increasing number of pilgrims, a neo-Gothic church had been built that received the status of Basilica Minor in 1984.

The gracious sculpture of Virgin Mary welcoming pilgrim crowds with open arms is the most valuable item of the church.

There are five chapels along the pilgrimage route, as well as a lime tree alley that has been named John Paul II Alley after the Holy Father on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of papal visit.

On 3 October 2005, Levoča and Mariánska hora were chosen by the European Marian Network of Marian Pilgrimage Sites delegates to become an association’s member.

Mariánska hora has thus been included among such world pilgrimage centres as Lourdes, Mariazell, Czestochowa, or Fatima.

On each first Saturday in July about 250 thousand people gather there to take part in the yearly mass at 6 pm. of that day, and the celebrations last the whole night, with mass every hour until 10 am on the following Sunday.”

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

Mass times

Sunday at 14.30. in the summer season.

History of Marian Hill

The oldest pilgrimage place in eastern Slovakia is Levoča, where the roots of the Mary’s cult date back to the 13th century. The first mentions about this pilgrimage place and the gathering of Mary’s worshippers appear at those times. In 1247, the first chapel was built on Olivet hill.

Probably it was built as manifestation of thankfulness to the Mother of God for rescuing numerous lives during the invasion of the Mongols, who attacked our territory and the town of Levoča as well. In 1311, the Franciscans came to Levoča and they established the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.

In 1322, the Levoča parish priest Henrich renovated the first church on Mary’s Hill. In the second half of the 15th century, the size of the church on Mary’s Hill was already insufficient.

Besides this fact, the state of the church was such that it was close to its collapse. In 1470, the parish priest Servác enlarged and partially rebuilt the church and shortly after that the church got the gracious Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary which has been preserved to the present.

Pilgrimages to the Mary’s Hill continued even during the Reformation. In addition, the local Evangelicals kept up the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

However, the revival of pilgrimages came into being only after the Counter Reformation, the first deed of which was a big procession and pilgrimage to the Hill on July 2, 1671. In 1673, the indulgence privilege was granted to Marian Hill by the Holy Father.

The church was more-times rebuilt and extended. In 1698, the parish priest Štefan Györffy built the second church on Mary’s Hill. In 1819, Ján Ehrnspenger, the Levoča parish priest, built the third church on Marian Hill, which was consecrated by the Spiš bishop Michal Brigido, a former Levoča pa-rish priest, in 1820.

In 1847, Roman Catholic parish priest Jozef Dulovič built a wooden chapel for the Eastern Byzantine worshippers. In 1906, Celestín Kompanyik began to build the present shrine from the thank-offerings of worshippers, which, after his death, was completed and furnished by the new parish priest Jozef Krššák.

On July 2, 1922, the new and spacious church was solemnly consecrated by the new Spiš bishop Ján Vojtaššák, nowadays – a candidate for beatification.

In 1947, the Levoča parish priest Jozef Vojtas, who worked in Levoča after the Second World War, made ready imposing plans for Mary’s Hill (to build a pilgrim, religious and spiritual retreat house). However, the political situation in the 50´s prevented their realization. His plans were realized only after the fall of communism, after the year of 1989, by the present parish priest Msgr. Prof. František Dlugoš, Ph.D.

Initially, Marian Hill gathered the pilgrims from eastern and central Slovakia. The pilgrims of the Latin and Eastern Byzantine rite used to come together here.

Especially the pilgrims from Košice, from beyond Magura, from Halíč and Pohronie, but also the Poles from the other side of the High Tatras journeyed to this place. Simple Slovakian people have come to Mary with their joys and pains, as to their mother, as they have often sung about in their pilgrimage religious songs.

Levoča’s parish priest František Dlugoš issued a detailed history of Mary’s Hill in the year of 2000. In his monograph Mariánska hora v Levoči 1247 – 1950 (Marian Hill in Levoča 1247 – 1950), it has been tried to present in full measure, as much as the historical sources have allowed it, the history of the Mary’s cult in Levoča and its influence on religion of the Slovaks. S

uch an extensive work devoted to Marian Hill is the first book of its kind in historical writing. There has not been any work published, which would present the history of this pilgrimage place in this way. The contemporary times are described in the most interesting way and to the largest extent.

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

The work presents the fact, that the continuity of pilgrimages was not interrupted even in the hardest times of oppression of religious life and faith – in the times of Reformation and in the last decades of the communist totalitarian system in Slovakia. Pilgrims have always visited the place although they had to suffer for coming to this place.

A lot of people were thrown out of their jobs, students had to leave schools, but all of that somehow attracted people even more to come to Marian Hill. Thus, gradually, Marian Hill has become the largest pilgrimage in Slovakia regarding the number of pilgrims, and it has become one of the well-known pilgrimage places in the world.

These sacrifices and suffering connected with this pilgrimage were also recognized by the Holy Father John Paul II, who promoted the church on Marian Hill to basilica minor on January 26, 1984.

John Paul II visitis the Marian Hill 

The largest pilgrimage was at the presence of the Holy Father John Paul II on July 3, 1995, when more than 650,000 joyful pilgrims together with him gathered round the Mother of God.

The Holy Father in his speech addressed the pilgrims by these words:”The shrines of Our Lady are the places where the testimony of Jesus becomes the most effective. Surely, a lot of sons and daughters of Slovakia thank to this Levoča shrine for the fact, that the faith in and the truth about God have stayed alive in their hearts…

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

The visit of the Holy Father in Levoča has given the impulse for deeper investigation of the history of this pilgrimage place, in order to underline its merit and greatness in the religious awareness of the Slovaks and in the development of Mary’s cult, which helped believers to withstand even the hardest times of the totalitarian system.

The devotion of Our Lady dates back in Levoca to the 13th century, when the local people found shelter from a Tartar invasion in a settlement on a hill north of Levoca. In gratitude for salvation, first a chapel and then a Gothic church were built there and the place became an object of pilgrimage to the supposedly miraculous sculpture of Our Lady.

THE STATUE WAS LATER MOVED TO A LEVOCA CHURCH BUT WAS BROUGHT BACK TO MARIANSKA HORA IN 1822. statue was later moved to a Levoca church but was brought back to Marianska Hora in 1822. The present church there comes from the early 20th century and the tradition of the pilgrimages is still alive.

On each first Saturday in July about 250 thousand people gather there to take part in the yearly mass at 6 pm. of that day, and the celebrations last the whole night, with mass every hour until 10 am on the following Sunday.”

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

History of the town Lavoca

The oldest document, where Levoca is mentioned for the first time, was issued by Hungarian king Belo IV in 1249 and he documented the act of presenting the grounds to the Spis Prior. It says that: “The border of the ground called Jablonov descends to the road which leads to Levoca.”

In 1271 Levoca becomes the center of the Saxons’ province and, like the other Spis towns, uses the rights of free king’s towns: they have autonomy, judicial authority, personal freedom, the right to mine ores, exploit forests, perform crafts, carry on trade and the right of store, which caused a long-lasting conflict with the town of Kezmarok, which won it only thanks to a trick.

The conflict is known as “Hundred-year War” and Levoca was the winner. In 1402 the citizens of Levoca were freed from the right of store of other towns, in 1419 the rulers freed Levoca’s merchants from the thirties duty all over Hungary.

Thanks to its advantageous position on the crossroads of trade routes and and substantial support of the both political and economic priviliges from the rulers, finances started to flow to the town’s treasure, as well as to the burghers’ purses, allowing general development. It was the period of architectural, educational, cultural, artistic and crafts splendour.

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

The fires in 1550 and 1599 caused a lot of damage. But the strong and rich town recovered succesfully from those disasters and kept its significant position till the end of the 16th century.

The town of Levoca used to be surrounded by the well -preserved Town-Wall, which was rebuilt several times. The architecture of the burghers’ houses in the square was changing from Gothic to Renaissance, as we know it now.

Due to the fires, only the remains of the Gothic house have been preserved and they are discovered during the reconstructions.

The Town Hall is built in Renaissance style,too. Religious brotherhoods, and especially churches , were the centers of spiritual culture.

The most important were: the Church of St. Nicholas, Holy Spirit, St. John and probably the Church of St. Elizabeth, too. But the most significant of them is the church of European importance, the Church of St. Jacob.

Since the 15th century the town supported education by giving certian sum of money to school. There were a library, pharmacy, bath and some doctors worked here as well.

Source:

History of Marian Hill

The oldest pilgrimage place in eastern Slovakia is Levoča, where the roots of the Mary’s cult date back to the 13th century. The first mentions about this pilgrimage place and the gathering of Mary’s worshippers appear at those times. In 1247, the first chapel was built on Olivet hill.

Probably it was built as manifestation of thankfulness to the Mother of God for rescuing numerous lives during the invasion of the Mongols, who attacked our territory and the town of Levoča as well. In 1311, the Franciscans came to Levoča and they established the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.

In 1322, the Levoča parish priest Henrich renovated the first church on Mary’s Hill. In the second half of the 15th century, the size of the church on Mary’s Hill was already insufficient.

Besides this fact, the state of the church was such that it was close to its collapse. In 1470, the parish priest Servác enlarged and partially rebuilt the church and shortly after that the church got the gracious Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary which has been preserved to the present.

Pilgrimages to the Mary’s Hill continued even during the Reformation. In addition, the local Evangelicals kept up the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

However, the revival of pilgrimages came into being only after the Counter Reformation, the first deed of which was a big procession and pilgrimage to the Hill on July 2, 1671. In 1673, the indulgence privilege was granted to Mary’s Hill by the Holy Father.

The church was more-times rebuilt and extended. In 1698, the parish priest Štefan Györffy built the second church on Mary’s Hill. In 1819, Ján Ehrnspenger, the Levoča parish priest, built the third church on Mary’s Hill, which was consecrated by the Spiš bishop Michal Brigido, a former Levoča pa-rish priest, in 1820.

In 1847, Roman Catholic parish priest Jozef Dulovič built a wooden chapel for the Eastern Byzantine worshippers. In 1906, Celestín Kompanyik began to build the present shrine from the thank-offerings of worshippers, which, after his death, was completed and furnished by the new parish priest Jozef Krššák. On July 2, 1922, the new and spacious church was solemnly consecrated by the new Spiš bishop Ján Vojtaššák, nowadays – a candidate for beatification.

In 1947, the Levoča parish priest Jozef Vojtas, who worked in Levoča after the Second World War, made ready imposing plans for Mary’s Hill (to build a pilgrim, religious and spiritual retreat house). However, the political situation in the 50´s prevented their realization. His plans were realized only after the fall of communism, after the year of 1989, by the present parish priest Msgr. Prof. František Dlugoš, Ph.D.

Initially, Marian Hill gathered the pilgrims from eastern and central Slovakia. The pilgrims of the Latin and Eastern Byzantine rite used to come together here.

Especially the pilgrims from Košice, from beyond Magura, from Halíč and Pohronie, but also the Poles from the other side of the High Tatras journeyed to this place. Simple Slovakian people have come to Mary with their joys and pains, as to their mother, as they have often sung about in their pilgrimage religious songs.

Levoča’s parish priest František Dlugoš issued a detailed history of Mary’s Hill in the year of 2000. In his monograph Mariánska hora v Levoči 1247 – 1950 (Marian Hill in Levoča 1247 – 1950), it has been tried to present in full measure, as much as the historical sources have allowed it, the history of the Mary’s cult in Levoča and its influence on religion of the Slovaks. S

uch an extensive work devoted to Marian Hill is the first book of its kind in historical writing. There has not been any work published, which would present the history of this pilgrimage place in this way. The contemporary times are described in the most interesting way and to the largest extent.

Our Lady of the Visitation at Marianska hora - Marian Hill in Levoca

The work presents the fact, that the continuity of pilgrimages was not interrupted even in the hardest times of oppression of religious life and faith – in the times of Reformation and in the last decades of the communist totalitarian system in Slovakia. Pilgrims have always visited the place although they had to suffer for coming to this place.

A lot of people were thrown out of their jobs, students had to leave schools, but all of that somehow attracted people even more to come to Marian Hill. Thus, gradually, Marian Hill has become the largest pilgrimage in Slovakia regarding the number of pilgrims, and it has become one of the well-known pilgrimage places in the world.

These sacrifices and suffering connected with this pilgrimage were also recognized by the Holy Father John Paul II, who promoted the church on Marian Hill to basilica minor on January 26, 1984.

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