Virgin Mary in the pack basket
The pilgrimage church and monastery Maria Martental with a monastic tradition of more than 800 years belongs to the most popular and oldest sights in the slate region Kaisersesch. In 1927 the religious congregation of the Herz-Jesu priests took over the monastery and reinvigorated pilgrimage. In the course of the year numerous pilgrim groups are stopping over in Maria Martental.
Enjoy the idyllic location – in the middle of nature, above the valley of the stream “Wilde Endert”. Maria Martental also provides for your physical wellbeing. The pilgrim home offers room for 200 persons. In the bookstore and the art shop you can buy a small present for yourself or your loved ones at home.
Three hundred years ago the statue of grace of the Mother of Sorrows of Maria Martental, in the open recess of the old forest chapel close to the creek “Sesterbach”, had become unsightly and quite charred of the torches carried by pious pilgrims coming from near and far. The residents got annoyed about it and reflected on how they could restore the sacred wooden statue and renew its splendour. In the Martental Augustinian Monastery on the top of the hill, which was subordinated to the Springiersbach monks near the “Kondelwald”, the only inhabitants were two old nuns who had enough to do with running their household and looking after the homestead and who had no idea of such artwork. It was the stone crusher Schupp zu Laubach who thought of taking the statue of grace to the Monastery Rosenthal at the creek “Pommerbach” about five hours walk away. Rosenthal was a convent for ladies, which in the year of 1304 got subordinated to the Cistercian Monastery Himmerod in the wooden area Salmwald. There, although located in the seclusion of the upper Pommerbach area, but still near the fertile Maifeld region and richly endowed by the Eifel dynasty of counts from Virneburg, the nuns not only knew how to manage their estate, but also took care for science and art. This – pledged the stone crusher Schupp from Laubach – would be the right place for the restoration of Virgin Mary’s statue.
The two nuns packed the wooden statue into a “back pack”, at the Mosel called “Raitz”, which was used for work in the vineyards, as half a lifetime ago it also was common practice in the Eifel villages. This way he could easily carry and protect it. He took the shortest way towards his destination: crossed the old Trier-Koblenz street at the Weiherhof, walked over the Neuhof grounds to the milestone at the road Cochem-Kaisersesch and soon turned into the wooden path, which led him into the valley of the creeks “Wirfuserbach” and “Pommerbach”. On his way back he made a detour of eight hours through the villages on the other side of the creeks, to let the residents immediately know and see with their own eyes that the Martental Madonna statue appeared like new again and the body of her dead son on her lab did no longer show any stains or burnt marks as well as her hands, eyes and cheeks were shining in their old glory. The stone crusher Schupp, with the precious load on his back, walked up the castle hill to Binningen and took the way of the Eltzer homesteads through the region “Forster Kirchspiel”. What happened, do you think? In all villages that he passed: in Forst, Pfaffenhausen, Dünfus, Brachtendorf, Kaifenheim, Gamlen, Eulgem, also in Kaisersesch as well as on the “Schöne Aussicht”, in all places children followed him and shouted: “Look, look! What a beautiful woman this man is carrying in his pack basket!” Everywhere women and girls came to the doorway, gammers opened the window and men stopped in amazement in the middle of the village roads. The one carrying the Mother of God, however, did not feel the heavy weight on his back. He neither looked back on her, nor did he proclaim her praises with his own mouth – it were the children who did this. Just as light as the little Christ Child, which – as passed on in the Saint Christopher Legend - at the banks of the river Mosel in Cochem was taken on a giant’s shoulders, who carried it through the river to Cond - seemed the wooden Madonna statue to be for the stone crusher.
He came home in the evening twilight. During the night two old nuns kept the statue of grace with them and the next morning they took it down the hill to the chapel at the creek “Sesterbach”, in order to have a good look at the Madonna’s new dress in the shine of the first morning light.
The Convent for Noble Ladies has no longer been in existence for about 150 years. Only a few remains of the wall between Wirfus and Binningen have been left. In Martental, however, the statue of grace has been enthroned on the high altar of the newly built pilgrimage church. The legend of Virgin Mary in the pack basket is the most touching and most beautiful one that was thought out in our homeland. Virgin Mary was so happy about the beautiful dress she got from the Rosenthal nuns and about the stone crusher Schupp’s deed so that she could not help herself but make her dead wooden statue come alive and appear to the children as a beautiful woman.
Source: Sagenborn der Heimat, collected by the teachers’ representatives from the district of Cochem and published by Robert Kraemer in the publishing house Peter Sesterhenn, Kaisersesch.
Further information on the Abbey Maria Martental is found here.