Saturday after the Ascension

Onze Lieve Vrouw van Amersfoort, Amersfoort, Utrecht, Netherlands

On this day, eight days before the feast of Pentecost, a silent procession begins at 7:30 a.m. in the central Dutch city of Amersfoort. The Lady Walk visits the place where in 1444 a housekeeper named Margriete Gysen found a clay statue of the Virgin and Child in the city moat. It stops at the Old Catholic Church of St. George to venerate the dust of that statue, and at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier, where the replacement statue resides (right). Of oak, stripped of its Gothic polychrome in 1938, the 17" Lady of Amersfoort is nearly as old as the original.   

The story goes that Margriete Gysen had a vision of Our Lady, who told her to look for a statue of herself under the ice by the water gate. The seer told her boss, a dyer named Jan Huberts, who laughed at her story, saying it was just a dream. But after the vision repeated twice more, Margriete Gysen broke the ice at the indicated spot and found the statue, still and upright in the flowing water. She retrieved the image, set it up in her home, and lit a candle, which burned three times longer than expected. On the day after Christmas, she brought the statue to her confessor, Jan Schoonhoven, a Carmelite friar. By January, he had decided the image was miraculous and moved it to a chapel, where it began attracting pilgrims. When news reached St. Agnes' Convent, a young sister named Geertje Arends made a confession: on her way into Amersfoort to enter the convent, impressed with the city's magnificence, she had felt ashamed of the humble figurine her parents had given her, and thrown it into the canal. With the donatioms of grateful pilgrims, a tower was added to the chapel. 

In 1579, when Protestants took over the chapel, Catholics took the statue to safety. Used as an ammunition depot, the chapel was destroyed by an explosion in 1789. The tower remains as a city landmark.

Sources include:

bullet"Collectie: Amersfoorts pelgrimsteken," Collectie Utrecht, www.collectieutrecht.nl/view.asp?type=object&id=548
bulletDatabank bedevaart en bedevaartplaatsen in Nederland, www.meertens.knaw.nl/bedevaart/bol/plaats/24
bulletJeanette van der Meij, "WebTV: De Amersfoortse Vrouwevaert," RKK, www.rkk.nl/actualiteit/2006/detail_objectID581264_FJaar2006.html (photo)
bulletMichiel Van Leeuwen, "Our Lady of Amersfoort," Pilgrim's Page - Order of Maria Rosa Mystica, ordermariarosamystica.weebly.com/pilgrims-page.html
bulletParish website, www.katholiekamersfoort.nl/?b=1857
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly