A healing miracle and an extraordinary image of the Virgin Mary triggered a pilgrimage movement to Altötting in Bavaria more than 500 years ago, which is still undertaken today. Around a million pilgrims a year come to see the "Black Madonna" in the Shrine of Our Lady, in the hope that she will hear their pleas and prayers.
Even though Altötting has always been a place of pilgrimage for the common people, several of the world's "major players" – emperors and kings, dukes and popes – have also visited. One of these was particularly close to the people of Altötting: Pope Benedict XVI, who was born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl am Inn, not too far from this place of pilgrimage.
Altötting is considered a centre of faith and religious devotion, and is one of the six Shrines of Europe, some of the continent's major places of pilgrimage. Pilgrims from all over the world travel here, especially the Shrine of Our Lady with the famous "Black Madonna" and its great artistic masterpieces, including the altar, which is decorated in wrought silver, and the statue of the silver prince who kneels beside it.
It is said that the Madonna and child carved out of lime wood was brought to the Shrine of Our Lady on Kapellplatz (Chapel Square) in around 1330. But it took approximately 150 years for the "Black Madonna of Ötting" to become a bearer of hope and a pilgrimage site following a healing miracle. Countless votive offerings on the outer walls and inside the Shrine of Our Lady, plus more than 2,000 votive images dating back several centuries in the ambulatory – symbols of thanks for the miracles granted by the Virgin Mary – give visitors some idea of how many pleas were not in vain...
Opening hours: 5:30am-8pm every day, open until 8:30pm in the summer months
Nearest train station: Munich
For information on services and the pilgrimage programme (in German),
visit: www.altoetting.de; the church features a ramp for accessibility