September 24: the holy helpers

2012/09/24 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1445 Hermann Leicht had a vision.

The shepherd from a Cistercian abbey had seen a crying child appear to him on a few occasions; on this third time he was joined by fourteen “Holy Helpers” who directed Leicht to build a chapel on the site.  He obeyed.  Miracles multiplied.  Pilgrims swarmed.  They came in such numbers, and for so long, that by the eighteenth century plans were made to raise a great new pilgrimage church to accommodate all those stopping off here, many of them on their way to Santiago da Compostella in Spain.

Johann Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753) began construction in 1742 on the building, now known as the Viersehnheiligen, which is as much a place of spiritual pilgrimage as one for devotees to the Bavarian Baroque.  Finished in 1772, the church is a soaring, rippling, wiggly chapel with a buoyant interior that seems to be inflated by the spectacular central altar by Johann Michael Feichtmayr (1709-72).

The Viersehnheiligen is a joyous hymn in stone and plaster to the shepherd’s spiritual vision and the devotion of legions of pilgrims who have passed through its ovoid spaces, and the blessings of the fourteen saints that have rained down on the site for centuries.  It would make a really great jello mold.

Image: interior (from this source)

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