'Heiligenbrunn' means 'sacred well' and so the center of this sanctuary
is a sacred well that predates its connection with the Black Madonna.
I don't usually include copies of other Black Madonnas in this index,
unless they have their own special legend or other features. I think a
sacred healing well qualifies.
The well in Heiligenbrunn probably goes back to pre-Christian times. It
was just another one of so many sacred places out in Mother Nature that
were Christianized by dedicating them to a Christian saint rather than
a Pagan god/dess. Until 1662 this one was just a little spring out in
the fields, with an image of Mother Mary next to it. But that year it
became famous in all of Bavaria. Why? Because on September 1st a peasant
by the name of Melchior, from a nearby village fell off a ladder. He must
have sustained some brain injury, for he was left speechless. For eleven
weeks everything humanly possible was tried, but nothing could make him
talk again. So he went to the sacred well, prayed and drank of the water.
At that, Our Lady appeared to him (some say in a dream), looking like
the famous Black Madonna of Altötting, and healed him. Word of the miracle
spread quickly and many people started coming to the sacred well that
had been blessed by the Black Madonna. To this day they come, asking for
healing and consolation. Many miracles are granted. The ex-voti in the
church tell not only of illnesses that were healed, but even of epidemics
that ceased and fires that were stopped.
From the alms the pilgrims left as a thanksgiving, a well was built
over the spring and a chapel next to it. Soon the building was too
small. The present, bigger church was erected in 1714. It contains
a baroque copy of the Black Madonna of Altötting shown hovering
over a sacred well. The actual well is in its own little 'chapel
of grace'. On the back wall of the chapel one can draw the healing
Twice a year pilgrims walk from all around and meet at the ancient
holy well to which the Black Madonna drew them back. Each Pentecost
there is also a traditional blessing of the horses.
|Next to the church there is a Spiritual Center for Families.
From 1851 to 1986 the building housed a boarding school for at risk
boys. It too was constructed with offerings left by pilgrims. Now
the place helps at risk families (i.e. the average family) to regain
the power of speech and communication and to enter into relationship
with oneself, one's partner, and God. The website says that the average
married couple talks to each other only about 9 minutes a day. When
that level of communication improves it is no less miraculous than
when the dumb peasant Melchior regained his ability to speak back
As the priest in Vassivière, France said, when I asked him if miracles
still happen at his shrine: "Of course, miracles happen all the time.
And the greatest miracle is when the heart opens."
*1: This article is based on information from Ursula Kröll, "Das Geheimnis
der Schwarzen Madonnen: Entdeckungsreisen zu Orten der Kraft", Kreuz Verlag,
Stuttgart: 1998, p. 189 and the Family Center's website, whence I also copied
the photos: www.heiligenbrunn.de