May 21

marian calendar     may

Stará Matka Boží, Žarošice, Hodonín, South Moravia, Czech Republic

The pilgrimage church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the vineyards of Žarošice was already famous in 1325, when Elisabeth Richeza, Queen of Bohemia, donated a statue. The 4-1/2-foot wooden image was carved from a single trunk, possibly by an artist at the Cistercian monastery she had recently founded in Brno, from which she also brought monks to care for the shrine. This classic Gothic Madonna, with the long hair of a virgin and the head covering of a matron, dressed as a medieval queen in gilded robes, became the subject of legend.   

During the siege of Vienna in 1529 Turkish forces invaded Moravia. The story goes that with two other officers the pasha entered the church and made fun of the statue, poking it, until he saw it weep. Then he too began crying, and, suddenly blind, asked the priest on duty to pray for him, promising to become a Christian if he regained his sight. But the reverse occurred. The Turkish leader stayed in Žarošice, took instruction, received baptism, and then recovered his vision. He became a hermit in the service of the Virgin's church - the only one left intact in the area - and was buried there. 

In 1645, the Swedes invaded. As with other churches in Moravia, they plundered the Virgin's shrine. But their wagon stopped along the way and would not go forward until they unloaded the statue in the forest. Some time later, a youth named Joseph Nemec was walking there when he saw a radiance in the undergrowth and heard a voice say, "Joseph, take me with you." He fetched a grape bin from his parents' house in the village of Archlebov, nine miles west of Žarošice, brought the statue home, and set it in a niche by the door. At night, it shone so brightly that neighbors thought the house was on fire. In the morning, it was gone. Young Nemec found it in the same place he had the day before, and this time decided to return it to Žarošice. 

As part of a modernizing campaign, Habsburg Emperor Joseph II dissolved the Cistercian monasteries in 1782 and banned pilgrimages in 1785. Nevertheless, pilgrims went to Žarošice on September 11, 1785 as they always had on "Golden Saturday," the Saturday after the Feast of Mary's Nativity. Finding the shrine closed, they broke in, took the statue, and carried it to the Parish Church of St. Ann, which has been its home ever since. On Golden Saturday, St. Ann's still hosts the annual pilgrimage, with masses in Czech and Slovak, processions and prayers. Pope John Paul II crowned the beloved statue of the "Old Mother of God" on May 21, 1995. 


Town site, "Historie," Obec Žarošice,
Tourist site, "The Pilgrimage Site of Žarošice,",
Archdiocesan site, "Zarosice," Arcidiecéze olomoucká, (picture)
Parish site, "Zlatá sobota 2010," Rímskokatolická farnost Žarošice,

Also commemorated this date:

Sainte-Marie de Fontfroide, Narbonne, l'Aude, Languedoc, France. Abbey authorized, 1093 (now a museum).
Madonna del Sabato Santo, Corropoli, Teramo, Abruzzo, Italy (Madonna of Holy Saturday). Statue's eyes watered, 1915.
Madonna delle Fonti, Spilinga, Vibo Valentia, Calabria, Italy (Madonna of the Springs). Processions from shrine to church and back.
Maria Santissima del Bosco, Niscemi, Caltanissetta, Sicily, Italy (Most Holy Mary of the Woods). Painting found, 1599, when cow bowed at spring. Festa 2nd Sunday in August.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly