Image of Grace of the Black Mother of God
|The story of the Black Mother of God of Benrath begins with
Count Philip Wilhelm (1653 - 1690) and his second wife Elisabeth Amalia
Magdalene. He had seen the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln in Switzerland and
both had a great devotion to Mother Mary. In 1677 they heard that local
people had witnessed an apparition of the Queen of Heaven and inexplicable
singing in the forest belonging to the Count’s castle (in the place
now called Schwarzer Weg, i.e. Black Path). When they went to see for themselves
what was going on, lo and behold the Countess repeatedly heard a heavenly
voice telling her: “Mary in her shining light wants to be venerated
here.” So the couple decided to commission a copy of the Black Madonna
of Einsiedeln and her black chapel to be erected on the spot of the apparition.
Immediately pilgrims and offerings to the Madonna poured in from all sides.
For two centuries yearly processions from the Lambertus Church in Düsseldorf to the chapel of the miracle working Black Madonna in Benrath were held on July 2nd. That date used to be the feast day of the Visitation of Mary (later moved to May 31) and is now the feast day of Our Lady of Light. Nowadays beautiful candle light processions are held on the 2nd Sunday in October when Our Lady is carried around the park of the old Count’s castle.
During the French occupation by Napoleon’s „revolutionary“ troups of the Rheinland (after 1794) many churches were secularized or destroyed. The so called „Black Chapel“ in Benrath did not escape this fate. First it became a pub for soldiers then it was torn down. The sacred image of grace was burried by the monks who were in charge of the site and thus saved. After the occupation, in 1806 the Black Madonna was brought out of hiding and placed in the nearest parish church. In 1959, during construction work, the foundation of the old Black Chapel was found at the Black Path (Schwarzer Weg). One can still visit it today, although the neighborhood has a bad reputation. The cornerstone with inscriptions was moved to the chapel of the Black Madonna in St. Cäcilia.(*1)