Notre-Dame de Fatima, Wiltz, Wiltz, Luxembourg
In January of 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, German forces controlled the city of Wiltz. Residents hid in their basements. Late in the afternoon of January 13 the military police ordered the populace to leave the city toward the east for reasons of security. Thirteen parishioners took shelter in the cellar of the Catholic pastor, Dean Prosper Colling, who decided the situation called for heavenly help. At his suggestion, the people in his cellar undertook a novena of prayer to the patron saints of Wiltz, Roch and Sebastian. As night fell, the evacuation was postponed until further notice. On an overturned sauerkraut barrel Msgr. Colling wrote out a vow, which was signed by the ten men and women present, "to erect on Bässent Hill a public way of the cross with images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima" if they escaped the war alive.
As fighting raged all around, during lulls Dean Colling made pastoral visits to area cellars, consoling his flock, telling them about the vow, and urging participation in the prayer campaign. As word spread, hope grew that by St. Sebastian's feast day, January 20, the change would come. Indeed, by then things had calmed down enough that Prosper Colling was able to say the festal mass in the badly damaged main church for a congregation of 200. And there, they received their miracle: through the blown-out windows they heard the noise of German boots on the pavement outside, heading east toward the German border. The next day, American forces entered the city. Wiltz was free.
Several years later, the people fulfilled their vow. On Sunday, September 13, 1947, the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima statue from Portugal visited Wiltz on its world tour. In a massive procession, the image ascended Bässent Hill atop a hexagonal block which that day became the first stone of the shrine overlooking the city. Dean Colling said mass in the open air.
But work on the monument did not begin in earnest until 1951. On July 13, 1952, Bishop-Coadjutor Léon Lommel dedicated the outdoor shrine, which features slate tablets with the names of the war dead and sandstone reliefs by Luxembourg sculptor Aurelio Sabbatini of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima. The Virgin's image resembles the Miraculous Medal rather than the statue from Portugal.
Since 1968, Portuguese immigrants from all over Luxembourg have made a pilgrimage to the Bässent shrine on the Feast of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter. They begin arriving the day before, some walking 30 miles. Early on Ascension Thursday, cars arrive from all directions. A statue of the Virgin of Fatima, donated in 1972 to the deanery church, reigns there over a field of flowers and a dense crowd singing and praying the rosary. At three in the afternoon the procession starts in front of the church. The statue is carried by the faithful and escorted by young Scouts up Bässent Hill, where several priests concelebrate the mass, often including one come for the occasion from Portugal. A choir sings, and as the statue departs, the believers create a sea of white handkerchiefs waving farewell, as they do at the sanctuary in Fatima.
(Main source: Joss Scheer, "Monument de Notre-Dame de Fatima « op Bässend » à Wiltz," Église catholique au Luxembourg, www.cathol.lu, 2007. Picture from "Das Fatima Denkmal," Syndicat d'Initiative de Wiltz, www.touristinfowiltz.lu/de/album/16/485.)
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