Our Lady of the Rock:
The Madonna del Sasso (Our Lady of the Rock) is the most important sanctuary in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Pilgrims have been walking the sacred Mountain with according to tradition the Virgin Mary appeared in 1480.
In 1480 Brother Bartolommeo d'Ivrea, a monk from Locarno, decided to make his home on the top of a mountain that he wanted as a place of prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that the Virgin appeared to him on the Feast of the Assumption and confirmed his decision to consecrate the mountain in her honor. While living in a cave the monk built the first chapel and dedicated it to St. Mary Avvocata. Then he built two chapels and dedicated them to St. Mary of Nazareth and St. Mary of Mercy. Years later he built the Casa del Padre, the House of the Father as a hermitage for himself, and at the foot of the mountain he built the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation. In the 17th century chapels connecting the mountaintop with the valley below were completed; each chapel depicted an event in the life of Christ and Mary. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rock saw the greatest amount of pilgrimages soon after the chapels were completed.
Located: Locarno/Orselina is on the border of Switzerland and Italy. Can be reached by car, train, bus & boat.
Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln
Pilgrims have been visiting the monastery of Einsiedeln for over 1000 years. The monastery in the breathtaking landscape with a deep blue lake and jagged mountain tops.
The monastery of Einsiedeln was built as a Baroque construction with four inner courtyards in the 18th century. Before that time Romanesque and Gothic buildings defined the monastery, which was founded by the Benedictine monk Meinrad in the year 835. The Mercy Chapel (Gnadenkapelle), made of black marble, is located in the monastery's church, under a dome with frescoes. The famous Black Madonna dating to the 15th century is found in that chapel.
The monastery complex includes not only the living space for the monks but also a diocese school, ten workshops, a wine cellar for the monastery's own wine and stables for the monastery's own breed of horses. By means of concerts, guided tours, and public masses, the Benedictine monks allow everyone to take part in their lives and discover what is probably Switzerland's most impressive monastery complex.
Our Lady of Einsiedeln
Black Madonna statue. The village itself is also home to the world's largest nativity scene, the Diorama Bethlehem.
The chapel is said to have been consecrated by Christ himself on September 14, 948, when the bishop who was to consecrate the new site had a vision of Christ himself approaching the altar. The miracle was confirmed by Pope Leo VIII 16 years later in a papal bull.
St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue, its color explained by years of candle smoke as part of his altarpiece. After his death it was placed in the Lady Chapel for veneration. Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of "Our Lady of Einsiedeln," and pilgrimages to Einsiedeln began shortly after 1000 AD. As many as 50,000 pilgrims streamed into the monastery each week in the middle ages.
The abbey church at Einsiedeln is a majestic baroque edifice with elaborately decorated pastel ceilings, many marble side altars, and a large high altar in the east end.
The most important part of the basilica is the Lady Chapel, near the entrance in the west end. Destroyed in 1798 by French invaders, and rebuilt in 1817, above the chapel's altar is the Black Madonna, resplendent in rich robes and surrounded by gold clouds. Many services take place here each day.
A short walk from the abbey is the world's largest nativity scene, the Diorama Bethlehem, with more than 500 carved wooden figures, and the justifiably famous Panorama, a circular painting more than 300 feet long and 30 feet high depicting Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Open from Easter to the end of October, they have narrative explanations in five languages.
Located: Einsiedeln is 20 miles southeast of Zurich. Can be reached by car, and train, NO bus.