Monday, August 14, 2017

A Visit to Innsbruck (5): A Marian Miracle Shrine with an Unusual Image of Our Lady

One of the most charming places we visited in Innsbruck is the little parish church of Amras, dedicated to “unserer Lieben Frau Mariä Himmelfahrt,” that is, “the Assumption of our dear Lady Mary.” Evidence exists that this part of Innsbruck began as a village at least 3,000 years ago. It acquired political significance in the 12th century A.D. A romanesque church was built here in 1221 in honor of the Saints Pancras and Zeno. The first description of the church as dedicated to Our Lady comes in 1408. Around 1480 the church was rebuilt in late gothic style, with three altars being consecrated in 1482. The church was baroquified in 1733-1756, with stucco by the local artist Joseph Gratl and frescoes by Joseph Adam Mölk.

The venerated statue of Our Lady over the high altar is from around 1490. This image has been cherished for centuries as a wonder-working image (wundertätiges Gnadenbild). One also sees the same statue depicted colorfully outdoors on the facade of the church, with pilgrims approaching to it.

My friend who was hosting me related two stories in connection with it. The first explains the unusual image of the Virgin Mary holding her child upside-down, as if catching him. Once a boy fell out of a high place. He called on Mary and found himself caught and lowered safely to the ground. He reported later seeing a lady who assisted him. The other story is of a man from Bavaria who confessed his sins to the priest. They must have been rather serious or numerous or both, since the priest told him to make a pilgrimage on foot to Amras as his penance (no short distance). When the man arrived in the church, he looked up at the image, and the baby Jesus turned His head away from him. He heard a voice saying: “Go into the town, tell the people to repent, and then return.” The man did as he was told, and by God’s grace brought many back to the church. When he himself came back, the child Jesus looked at him and said: “Your sins are forgiven.”

The atrium of the church is filled with votive plaques or tablets of thanksgiving with paintings of Our Lady of Amras and a year. Nearly all of these are from right after World War II.

Back inside the church, we have, drum roll please, the elevated Baroque pulpit, which, here, actually gets used both by the pastor (a Norbertine) and by the visiting priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter who celebrates Mass in this parish every Sunday. (This is one of two locations in town for the usus antiquior on Sundays and feastdays; the other location is the SSPX priory closer to the old city, which has daily Mass.) Next to the pulpit is a banner of just the sort that needs to be revived for Corpus Christi processions, and at the foot of the pulpit is a wooden Madonna sculpture on a pole for processions, also an art form worth rediscovering.
The wooden relief carving of the lamentation over Christ is from around 1500.
Along the right side of the church we find a prominent statue of the much-loved St. Notburga, a peasant girl from Tyrol, who, when her master told her to keep working instead of going to Mass, threw her sickle up in the air and said, “Let God judge between you and me” -- and the sickle hung, suspended in the air, until she returned from church.
One of the most beautiful of all Austrian places is, strange to say, a Catholic cemetery. The graves are crowded right around the Catholic church, and the people take care of them with great pride and love for the departed, planting lots of flowers around ornate crucifixes or statues. Here are some typical sights from the cemetery at Amras:
The cemetery features a large crucifix scene erected in 1765, a wooden cross commemorating a parish mission, and a late Gothic outdoor chapel with a fresco of the Last Judgment from 1600. Today it is the memorial for those killed in both World Wars.
Our Lord and Our Lady riding in a chariot together at the Last Judgment
As we saw earlier with the famous Madonna and Child painting of Lucas Cranach in the cathedral church, so too with Our Lady of Amras: all throughout the district of this parish, houses may be seen featuring this particular image, which can be recognized by the mother holding the child upside-down, as if she has just caught Him.
May Our Lady intercede for the parish of Amras, the entire city of Innsbruck, and all of us!

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