Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting Black Madonna in Germany

Coming to Altotting and having the best stay:

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Getting around

Insurance: Travel Insurance for Germany
Flights: Flights to Salzburg
Things to do: Sightseeing in Bavaria
Forum: FAQ about Altotting: 3 topics
Gifts: Books Our Lady of Altotting.
Cars: Rent a car in Munich, Salzburg
Rail Europe: Train to Munich
Books: Bavaria travel guides
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Our Lady of Altotting Germany

Our Lady of Altotting is a Bavaria shrine in southern Germany famous for its 9th century Black Madonna. Altötting has attracted pilgrims since the 15th century.

The Royal House of Germany has had a particular devotion to Our Lady of Altotting since the Middle Ages, a preference that had become a tradition. An urn in the “Virgin’s chapel” still holds the hearts of dukes and kings of the ruling family of Wittelsbach (family of the famous empress Sissi).

Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting Black Madonna in Germany

SUGGESTION: A Day of Pilgrimage in Altotting

For over 1250 years Altötting has been Bavaria’s spiritual centre and for over 500 years has held the position of the principle Marian pilgrimage site in the German-speaking world.

The objective for over one million pilgrims and visitors each year is to see the “Black Madonna”, kept in the octagonal Chapel of Grace. Inside the chapel, across from the magnificently ornamented altar recess presenting the gothic Miraculous Image, stands the artistically festooned silver urn containing the hearts of Bavarian dukes, kings and prince-electors.

Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting Black Madonna in Germany

Due to the special bond between the citizens or the territorial lords with “Our Lady’s” pilgrimage site, the shrine came to be known as the “Heart of Bavaria”. A second major pilgrimage destination is the St. Konrad Capuchin Church featuring the reliquaries of Konrad of Parzham, a custodian monk who was canonised 75 years ago.

Suggested Schedule for a ‘Day of Pilgrimage’
(Saturdays, May – October)

10:00 You attend Holy Mass in the Brother Konrad Church

11:00 You take part in a town tour “Altotting: 1250 Years Heart of Bavaria”. Trained guides explain the historical development of the town and of the pilgrimages, show you impressive churches around Kapellplatz (Chapel Square) and give you plenty of information about Altötting. (Duration: 90 minutes; price per group 61,00 Euro upon request at the tourist office): Entrance to museums is not included.

In the afternoon, you’ll visit the ‘Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum’ at the Haus Pope Benedict XVI featuring the famed ‘Golden Horse’ and the monumental panoramic painting of Jerusalem and of Christ’s Crucifixion, as well as the ‘diorama show’.

20:00: You attend Vespers at the Basilica of St Anne, followed by a procession of lights. (September/October 19:00)

Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting Black Madonna in Germany

SUGGESTION: Pilgrimage Weekend in Altotting

You are planning a stay in Altotting, either individually or for a group of pilgrims? This page gives you suggestions for a pilgrimage weekend.

Pilgrimage Weekend in Altötting (for individuals and groups)

Day 1 (Friday):
Arrive in Altotting. Your first experiences of the pilgrimage town could be a visit to the local museums such as: the monumental panoramic painting “Jerusalem Panorama of Christ’s Crucifixion”, “House Pope Benedikt XVI” which houses the Treasury and the Pilgrimage Museum featuring the famed “Golden Horse” and St. Mary´s Association with the “exhibition of dioramas”. Following your activities, dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 2 (Saturday):
Breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards you take part in a guided city tour (61,00 € per group up to 30 participants, upon request at the tourism office). In the afternoon you take an excursion through the area that includes visits to Marktl (Pope Benedikt XVI’s birthplace) or to Burghausen boasting Europe’s longest fortress and to former Raitenhaslach Abbey. After dinner, you take part in Altötting’s procession of lights (from May to October, Saturday evenings after Vespers).

Day 3 (Sunday):
Breakfast at the hotel. At 10:00 a.m. you attend High Mass at the Basilica of St Anne with orchestral mass music. Now you can travel back home or visit other sights of interest in the Inn-Salzach region.

Further information:
Altotting is located in the lovely pre-Alpine landscape of Upper Bavaria, close to Salzburg (Mozart’s birthplace) lake Chiemsee with the fairytale castle of the Bavarian King Ludwig II., lake Königssee and Berchtesgaden’s mountains, as well as the Bavarian capital Munich.

Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting Black Madonna in Germany

Special Trip:
Round trip in Bavaria in the footsteps of Emperors, Kings and Popes (5 days).

Starting from Munich, journey to Oberammergau, idyllically situated in the Ammergau Alps and known the world over for its passion plays. 2 days of visits to the fairy tale castles of Ludwig II Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, as well as the famous “Wieskirche”: church in the meadows.

The journey continues along the German Alpine Road with a stop at lake Chiemsee and a two-day-stay in Altötting featuring a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady and participation in the Altötting candlelight procession.

History

During the terrible period of Nazism the shrine and its pilgrims were persecuted, but the number of pilgrims coming to Our Lady of Altotting only doubled. In 1934, Pope Pius XI solemnly inscribed the name of Capuchin lay brother Conrad of Parzham in the list of Saints. Saint Conrad held the office of porter at Altotting for over thirty years.

He ate little, slept even less and worked hard, and remained always in communion with Christ, the God of his heart. He was also known for his Marian piety. Conrad had the gift of prophecy and of reading people’s hearts.

To the young and old alike, to the polite and impolite, the saint was always kind and gentle. He died in Altotting on April 21, 1894. That year more than half a million pilgrims came on pilgrimage to Altotting!

Shrine of Our Lady of Altotting

It is said that during World War II, seeing the American army had nearly arrived, the troops of the Nazi SS took refuge in the convent of Altötting after shooting the dean. The Americans warned that they would bombard the place if the Nazis did not turn on the electric lighting. The Nazis refused, but a pilgrim managed to turn on the lights, an act of courage that he paid for with his life, while saving the shrine from destruction.

Today, one million faithful come every year to pray to Our Lady of Altotting.

See more German catholic shrines and pilgrimages.

See more European catholic shrines and pilgrimages.

See Top 15 Catholic shrines around the world.

Pilgrims’ Paths to Altotting

Altotting lies at the heart of the pilgrimage trail network: the “St James’s Way through Bohemia, Bavaria and Tirol” starts in Cesky Krumlov and, passing through Passau and Altotting, leads to Kufstein. The “St Rupert Pilgrimage Trail” starts in Altötting, follows the footsteps of the missionary bishop, St Rupert, through the Rupertiwinkl region to Salzburg and Bischofshofen in Pongau.

The “Mozart Trail” links Regensburg to Altotting and, passing through the Innviertel region, leads to St Wolfgang in the Austrian Lake District Salzkammergut.

Very special to the region is the Benedikt Trail that was opened in 2005: covering a distance of 250 km, this circular trail links the towns connected to Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood and youth and meanders through the placid alpine uplands between the Inn and Salzach Rivers.

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Black Madonna  – The Chapel of Grace in Altotting

Boasting a privileged location in the attractive Alpine foothills of Upper Bavaria, Altotting is centred between Munich, Passau, Salzburg and Lake Chiemsee. For over 1250 years the town has been Bavaria’s spiritual centre and for five centuries has featured as Germany’s principle Marian pilgrimage site.
Small in form, but large in history and significance, the Miraculous Image chapel rules the spacious Kapellplatz (Chapel Square). Its Octagon (octagonal tower), the core construction of this church, presumably from the 700’s, may be the oldest central construction in Germany.

The octagonal ground plan of the Chapel of Grace indicates the original purpose as a baptismal chapel. According to legend, the holy Bishop Rupertus of Salzburg baptised the first Christian Bavarian duke here. The approx. 70 cm-high, early Gothic scene of a standing Mother of God with the Child, which stems from Burgundy or along the Upper Rhine and is carved out of lime-wood, arrived here around 1330. About 150 years later, in 1489, after the
reports of two healing miracles, it became a pilgrimage goal and miraculous image of the Madonna.

Numerous other silver votive offerings from several centuries are stored in wall niches. Silver urns containing the hearts of important personalities from the Wittelsbach family, among them all prince electors and kings up to King Ludwig III, are likewise located in wall niches on the west side of the Octagon. The most impressive of the sepulchral urns is that of the Wittelsbach Emperor Karl VII., which was created in 1745 by the Munich royal court sculptor Johann Baptist Straub.

The chapel walkway is adorned with about 2,000 votive tablets from several centuries. They are to be distinguished from the cycle, located above, of over 50 large-format “Miracle Plaques”, which were created around 1500- 1520 by a painter from the “Danube school” circle. In the early 16th century, a few years after the beginning of the pilgrimage, the late Gothic long house with pointed roof rider and the covered walkway were built onto the
Octogon. An important work of art is the ornamentation of the Miraculous Image altar, which was completed in 1670 and is enchased entirely in silver, and whose receptacle, in which the shrine with the Miraculous Image is located, symbolises Mary’s coronation. An artful depiction of “The Jesse Root” adorns the recess of the altar niche. The silver works stem from the goldsmiths Balthasar Ableithner, Franz Oxner and Johann F. Fesenmayr. A silversmith work of world rank is the “Silver Prince” by the Dutch master Wilhelm de Groff. This masterpiece, which was donated by Prince Elector Karl Albrecht in 1737, is kneeling on the right side of the altar, and is a life-sized image of the 10 year-old Prince Max II Joseph in delicate rococo armour. The silver figure of the kneeling Holy Brother Konrad, created by the
Munich sculptor Prof. Georg Busch, was added as a matching piece to the left of the
altar in the 1930’s.

Pope Benedict XVI, who was born nearby in the town of Marktl and who is closely connected to Altötting through his numerous official, as well as private visits, described the pilgrimage town as the “Heart of Bavaria and one of the Hearts of Europe”. In the course of his pastoral tour in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI also paid a visit to Altotting and in 2008 he awarded the town the high distinction of the “Golden Rose”.

SUGGESTION: A Day of Pilgrimage in Altotting

For over 1250 years Altötting has been Bavaria’s spiritual centre and for over 500 years has held the position of the principle Marian pilgrimage site in the German-speaking world.

The objective for over one million pilgrims and visitors each year is to see the “Black Madonna”, kept in the octagonal Chapel of Grace. Inside the chapel, across from the magnificently ornamented altar recess presenting the gothic Miraculous Image, stands the artistically festooned silver urn containing the hearts of Bavarian dukes, kings and prince-electors. Due to the special bond between the citizens or the territorial lords with “Our Lady’s” pilgrimage site, the shrine came to be known as the “Heart of Bavaria”. A second major pilgrimage destination is the St. Konrad Capuchin Church featuring the reliquaries of Konrad of Parzham, a custodian monk who was canonised 75 years ago.

Suggested Schedule for a ‘Day of Pilgrimage’
(Saturdays, May – October)

10:00 You attend Holy Mass in the Brother Konrad Church

11:00 You take part in a town tour “Altotting: 1250 Years Heart of Bavaria”. Trained guides explain the historical development of the town and of the pilgrimages, show you impressive churches around Kapellplatz (Chapel Square) and give you plenty of information about Altötting. (Duration: 90 minutes; price per group 61,00 Euro upon request at the tourist office): Entrance to museums is not included.

In the afternoon, you’ll visit the ‘Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum’ at the Haus Pope Benedict XVI featuring the famed ‘Golden Horse’ and the monumental panoramic painting of Jerusalem and of Christ’s Crucifixion, as well as the ‘diorama show’.

20:00: You attend Vespers at the Basilica of St Anne, followed by a procession of lights. (September/October 19:00)

SUGGESTION: Pilgrimage Weekend in Altotting

You are planning a stay in Altotting, either individually or for a group of pilgrims? This page gives you suggestions for a pilgrimage weekend.

Pilgrimage Weekend in Altötting (for individuals and groups)

Day 1 (Friday):
Arrive in Altotting. Your first experiences of the pilgrimage town could be a visit to the local museums such as: the monumental panoramic painting “Jerusalem Panorama of Christ’s Crucifixion”, “House Pope Benedikt XVI” which houses the Treasury and the Pilgrimage Museum featuring the famed “Golden Horse” and St. Mary´s Association with the “exhibition of dioramas”. Following your activities, dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 2 (Saturday):
Breakfast at the hotel. Afterwards you take part in a guided city tour (61,00 € per group up to 30 participants, upon request at the tourism office). In the afternoon you take an excursion through the area that includes visits to Marktl (Pope Benedikt XVI’s birthplace) or to Burghausen boasting Europe’s longest fortress and to former Raitenhaslach Abbey. After dinner, you take part in Altötting’s procession of lights (from May to October, Saturday evenings after Vespers).

Day 3 (Sunday):
Breakfast at the hotel. At 10:00 a.m. you attend High Mass at the Basilica of St Anne with orchestral mass music. Now you can travel back home or visit other sights of interest in the Inn-Salzach region.

Further information:
Altotting is located in the lovely pre-Alpine landscape of Upper Bavaria, close to Salzburg (Mozart’s birthplace) lake Chiemsee with the fairytale castle of the Bavarian King Ludwig II., lake Königssee and Berchtesgaden’s mountains, as well as the Bavarian capital Munich.

Special Trip:
Round trip in Bavaria in the footsteps of Emperors, Kings and Popes (5 days).
Starting from Munich, journey to Oberammergau, idyllically situated in the Ammergau Alps and known the world over for its passion plays. 2 days of visits to the fairy tale castles of Ludwig II Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, as well as the famous “Wieskirche”: church in the meadows. The journey continues along the German Alpine Road with a stop at lake Chiemsee and a two-day-stay in Altötting featuring a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady and participation in the Altötting candlelight procession.

 

Holy services in the pilgrimage churches:

  • The Gothic Stiftspfarrkirche St. Phillipp und Jakob church
  • Basilica St. Anna
  • St. Magdalena
  • St. Konrad
  • Kapellplatz (Chapel Square)

Saturdays

  • 07.00 pm St. Konrad (01.01. – 19.04.)
  • 08.00 pm Basilica of St Anne (26.04. – 30.08.), followed by a candlelight procession
  • 07.00 pm Basilica of St Anne (06.09. – 25.10.), followed by a candlelight procession
  • 07.00 pm St. Konrad (01.11. – 31.12.)

Sundays and Bank holidays

  • 07.00 am Chapel of Grace (mass with choir and organ)
  • 07.30 am St. Magdalena
  • 08.30 am Stiftspfarrkirche
  • 09.00 am St. Konrad
  • 09.30 am St. Magdalena
  • 10.00 am Basilica of St Anne Orchestra Mass (Easter – October)
  • 10.00 am Stiftspfarrkirche Family Service
  • 10.30 am Kongregationssaal Youth Service (only at Sunday / 11.05. – 26.10.)
  • 11.00 am St. Magdalena Youth Service (every 2nd Sunday of the month from October to April)
  • 11.15 am Stiftspfarrkirche
  • 11.30 am St. Konrad (when big groups it is in the Basilica of St Anne)
  • 07.00 pm Stiftspfarrkirche Evening Mass

Weekdays

  • 06.00 –11.00 am Chapel of Grace (every full hour)
  • 07.00 am St. Magdalena (Saturdays only)
  • 08.00 am Stiftspfarrkirche
  • 09.00 am St. Michael (Fridays only)
  • 09.00 am St. Michael (May – October, Wednesdays only)
  • 10.00 am St. Konrad
  • 11.00 am Basilica of St Anne Holy Mass for Pilgrims (May/September/October., Saturdays only)
  • 03.00 pm St. Magdalena Holy Mass for Pilgrims (Monday – Friday)
  • 07.00 pm Stiftspfarrkirche (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays only) – Mass for Invalids

Sunday and Bank Holidays

  • 08.30 – 11.30 am Basilica St Anne (from Easter)
  • 08.30 – 12.00 am Stiftspfarrkirche

Weekdays

  • 08.30 – 11.30 am
  • 14.30 – 16.00 pm St. Magdalena

Altotting – History

In 1989, Altotting celebrated 500 years of Madonna pilgrimage. Yet its history goes back even farther.

In 1983/84, in the course of excavations carried out on the Altotting Kapellplatz by archaeologists of the “Bayerische Landesamt für Denkmalpflege” (Bavarian Office for Preservation of Monuments) traces of human settlement were discovered which go back to Neolithic age. But what human beings used to do here, whether it was a place of worship at that time, is not known exactly.

A Roman past as attributed to Altotting by the Bavarian historian Aventinus (Johann Thurmair) remains legendary. In 748, in the early Middle Ages Altötting appears for the very first time in an official historical document under the name “Autingas”, the Latin form of “Ötting”. This proper name originates from Auto or Oto, probably a Bavarian tribe leader,
who settled first in this area.

When officially first mentioned, Altotting is already an important town, because it is also the court of Bavarian dukes, the most important residence after Regensburg (Ratisbona). Nearby, a Chapel the octagonal ground plan of which conveys the idea of being a baptismal chapel presumably erected around 700 and its construction is associated with the saint mission bishop Rupertus von Salzburg. A legend tells that firstly he baptized the first Christian Bavarian duke here in Ötting and secondly he brought a Madonna to Ötting.

After the last Agilolfing duke Tassilo III was deprived of his power by Charlemagne in 788, the ancient ducal court of Ötting became a Carolingian royal palatinate. It is proved that several Carolingian emperors and kings stayed here. The heyday, however, for the Ötting Carolingian palatinate was when King Karlmann, great-grandchild of Charlemagne moved his seat of government from Regensburg to Ötting in 865 and ruled from here as King of Bavaria and Italy until he died in 880.

Karlmann also erected the monastery which he furnished abundantly and a Basilica to which he endowed relics of the apostle Philippus and where he was buried in 880. In Altötting also the history of the German Carolingians came to an end: Karlmann’s son, Emperor Arnulf of Carinthia, died here on December 8 th, 899 and his son Ludwig, called “das Kind”(“the Child”), was born in Ötting in 900 and baptized in the octagonal centre of the chapel. With his death the German line of the Carolingian dynasty came to an end in 911.

In 907 the Hungarian assault devastated the palatinate, Stift and Basilica. Only the octagon of the baptismal chapel survived the destruction intact. Only three centuries later, in 1228, the Chorherrenstift is rebuilt by the Wittelsbach duke Ludwig the Kehlheimer. Where once was the Karlmann Basilica he had a new Basilica in roman style erected as a Stiftskirche. In 1489 pilgrimage to Altötting starts caused by the reports on two sensational healing miracles. Destination of the pilgrimage which soon reunites pilgrims from all over Europe, is a Madonna carved out of lime-wood and located in the octagon of the ancient baptismal chapel which was made at the Upper Rhine or Burgundy about 1300 and came to Altötting in about
1330.

The pilgrims come in large numbers and are far too many for the small chapel and the Roman Stiftskirche. Between 1499 and 1511 where once was the Roman church is nowadays the Gothic Stiftskirche. And also the octagon of the chapel gets a “Langhaus” (nave).

Throughout the centuries Altotting remained the pilgrimage place of the ordinary people, but also gained political significance as the destination and meeting place of “the Great people of the World”. Emperors and kings, dukes and electors and also three Popes came to Altötting as pilgrims, like Pope Jon Paul II in November 1980, and with the last highlight being the visit of the Bavarian Pope Benedict XVI on September 11th 2006. During the 30 years’ War the Bavarian elector Maximilian gave his destiny and his people’s destiny into the hands of the Madonna of Altötting by writing a solemn letter with his own blood. In 1681 the EmperorLeopold I and the Bavarian elector Max Emanuel met in Altotting for prayers and politicalnegotiations and formed the “Altotting Alliance” which two years later became important when the Turks were approaching Vienna. Until the 19th century, the Bavarian sovereigns have their hearts buried in silver urns inside the octagon of the Altötting Chapel as a sign of “ducal guard of honour”.

When the Altotting porter Konrad of Parzham was beatified and canonized in 1930 and 1934, Altotting was given a second popular shrine of pilgrimage besides the Gnadenkapelle: The
Tomb of the Saint located in the Kapuzinerkirche St. Konrad (Capuchin Church). Nowadays about 1 million pilgrims per year visit Altotting.

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