Basilica Maria Plain: Church of Pilgrimage

The church of pilgrimage of Maria Plain in the north of Salzburg, a great walk for a few quiet hours.

The basilica of Maria Plain is considered as the traditional church of pilgrimage for the city of Salzburg. It is remarkable for its architectural value, but also for the stunning views the location offers over Salzburg and the Salzburg valley.

According to a legend, an image of the Virgin Mary with Jesus as a child remained miraculously unharmed during a fire in the city of Regen (Bavaria) during the 30-years war (1618-1638). After the image was sent to Salzburg, Prince Archbishop Guidobald Thun founded a chapel for it in 1652. Prince Archbishop Max Gandolf founded a church next to this chapel and got the Italian architect Giovanni Antonio Dario to design the building and manage its construction from 1671 to 1674.

Maria Plain′s fašade with a double-tower is decorated with the four evangelists and - above the entrance - the Virgin Mary with the child. Essentially all decorations as well as the interiors are original from the time of the foundation of the church and were donated by several Benedictine abbeys as well as wealthy citizens of Salzburg. A pillar in front of the church bears a statue of St. Benedict from 1709, facing Maria Plain.

An Austrian centre of worship

Maria Plain has one central wing with two chapels on each side. Remarkable are the choir stalls, the vaulted ceiling and the stucco decorations. The main altar was built in 1674. The altar painting depicts Mary being taken to heaven and was painted by Frans de Neve. It is framed by statues of the saints Maximilian, Vitalis, Rupert and Virgil.

The miraculous painting of Mary is in front of the altar. On the 14th of July 1751, the fifth Sunday after Pentecost, the painting was coroneted and crested. Since then, the anniversary of this coronation is celebrated annually. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his Coronation Mass for the 28th anniversary.

The paintings around the altar depict how Mary′s painting was rescued from the flames and miracles that are connected with it. The two side altars contain relic shrines for the saints Dionysios and Christina.

Baroque art in Salzburg′s surroundings

If you want to go to Maria Plain, you can take some more time to walk on the traditional Wallfahrtsweg Maria Plain, the pilgrimage route to the basilica. It starts in the centre of Bergheim community, in Elisabethstraße 1. The first part follows little chapels with paintings of the rosary.

To the south of the Plainberg mountain, a little hill is the final part of the pilgrimage before entering the basilica Maria Plain itself. Hills of this sort are called "Kalvarienberg" (Calvery Mount) and serve as centrepieces for contemplation. They can be found with many pilgrimage churches in Austria and mostly bear statues of locally relevant saints and the passion of Christ, finished with the crucification on top. The Kalvarienberg statues of Maria Plain were erected from 1686 to 1692.

Nearby Maria Plain are two more chapels. The "Heilige Grab Kapelle", the chapel of the holy grave that contains a replica of Christ′s tomb in Jerusalem. The "Schmerzenskapelle", the chapel of pain, was built between 1724 and 1734 and contains a pieta by Franz Schwanthaler.

Official Website of Maria Plain
Via Nova pilgrimages - opens in new window

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