Beilstein black madonna.jpg

In the convent church of the Carmelites, Klosterstr. 55, 56814 Beilstein, near Cochem on the Mosel, 12th/13th century Spanish copy of Black Madonna of Loreto, about 50 cm, painted wood. Photos: Ella Rozett

The Black Madonna (Die Schwarze Madonna), 
Queen of Peace


In 1554 the rulers of Beilstein became Protestants and imposed their faith on their subjects. No wonder perhaps that the locals didn’t mind being occupied by Catholic Spaniards in 1620, during the bloody 30 Years War of Religion. Without a fight they opened their gates to the Spanish troops, who had appeared with their black Madonna. The peaceful takeover of the town during a time of rampant violence was a miracle that everybody attributed to the Virgin called Queen of Peace. Not only was nobody killed or raped, but nothing was stolen and no house set on fire. Immediately pilgrims began streaming to the foreign Madonna. The 14 years of Spanish occupation were marked by such friendly relations that the occupiers left their precious Queen of Peace in Germany when they were pushed back out. 


She dwelt in the parish church until Carmelite monks moved into Beilstein and erected a monastery church big enough to welcome the devotees of the Black Madonna. It was inaugurated at the end of the 17th century. The Carmelites have a great devotion to their patron, Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Scapular and fostered any kind of love for the Queen of Heaven. So on the feast day of Our Lady of the Scapular so many pilgrims would come to the celebration put on by the monks that tents had to be erected all around Beilstein to house the guests.

During the forced secularizations of the 19th century, the monastery was dissolved and its art and sacred treasures sold. The Black Madonna was later found in someone’s private possession and given to the local bishop. After his death it was put in the diocesan museum.

The Carmelites only returned to Beilstein in 1948 and soon lobbied to have their Queen of Peace come home. Two years later their requests were granted. She journeyed by ship in a great celebration. Wherever she passed on the river, the bells in the churches on shore would toll and people would gather to sing Marian hymns. In Beilstein she was greeted by a huge, enthusiastic crowd that formed a festive procession to escort her back to her church.

For the next twenty+ years the community that sponsored devotion to Mary in all her forms fared so well that the monastery had to be expanded, but by 1989 there were so few monks left that they were subsumed into a larger monastery in the area. Now only one brother is left to administer the parish and a group of lay women form the heart and mind of the site. This led to a fabulous bakery/café right next to the church and Schubert’s Ave Maria playing over loud speakers in the bathrooms. Nice feminine touch!*

* For more info you can call the Catholic parish of Beilstein at (0 26 73) 16 53.
Information for this article was taken from a booklet for sale in the church: Pater Justin Stampfer O. Carm. ”Beilstein an der Mosel und seine Geschichte”, Fachverlag für Kirchenfotographie & Luftbildaufnahmen, Saarbrücken: 2005 and from