Popes in Altötting

Pope Pius VI.
He was in Altötting as a pilgrim on April 25/26, 1782.

Pope Pius XII.
In Altötting as papal nuncio with capuchins and local notabilities.

Pope Pius X.
On the altar image of the St. Anna-Basilica.

Pope Pius V.
Grants the Provost of Altötting Martin Eisengrein the right of Inful; relief carving on the choir chairs of the monastery church.

 

Pope Johannes Paul II.
Prayed in the chapel of Altötting on November 18th, 1980. Behind him kneeled Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, at the time arch bishop of Munich and Freising.

Pope Benedikt XVI.
Visited his native home Altötting on September 11th, 2006.

  
The whole world talks about the Pope
The long suffering and the death of Pope Johannes Paul II. on April 2nd moved the whole world. The same for the election of his successor Benedict XVI. on April 19th, with whom for the first time since nearly half a millennium a cardinal from Germany, from Bavaria is now seated on the chair of Peter. Hardly ever before that had the media, also those that usually have no interest in church and Christian belief reported and commented in so much detail and by all means positive about Popes and the Church as in the past months. Also in Altötting grieving and joy were great upon the death of the former and the election of the new Pope, because the place of pilgrimage has a special relationship to both. The visit of Pope Johannes Paul II. on November 18th and 19th, 1980, nearly two years after his election remains unforgotten. It was a personal wish of the Pope from Poland to make the Bavarian „national sanctuary“ one of his goals of his travels through Germany. The joy was great as back then in the summer of 1980 the message was sent form Rome: The Pope will visit Altötting.
We from Altötting gladly remember those November days, the arrival of the pope late afternoon with the helicopter from Fulda, the welcome in the sports stadium of Altötting by the Bavarian prime minister Franz Josef Strauß and the arch bishop of Munich and Freising, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the drive through the streets of the city to the chapel square, the visit to the chapel of mercy, the large service on the chapel square with 60.000 people and the sermon, the symbolic planting of the lime tree in front of the brother-Konrad-monastery, the meeting with the sick and handicapped in the Basilica, the meeting of the Holy Father with German theologists in the St. Konrad monastery, where the Holly Father stayed overnight, and the goodbye the next morning at the train station of Altötting.
This visit of the Pope, which was surely one of the greatest events of the pilgrimage history in Altötting was marked by the mentioned pope lime tree, which meanwhile has grown to a remarkable size, it is a reminder of the prayer in front of the image of our Dear Lady that Pope Johannes Paul left us in writing, and it is a reminder of him and his visit to Altötting, today’s and later generations  will value the over-size bronze pope memorial erected in 1984 at the facade of the congregation hall on the chapel square that the Ukrainian-Canadian sculptor Leo Mol designed and the art foundry of Neuötting realized in bronze. The Marian men’s congregation Altötting donated it. At his feet, many pilgrims and citizens of Altötting lit candles and laid down flowers on the day of his death and during the days following.
Back then in Altötting, and then in Munich, the arch bishop of Munich and Freising, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was often at the side of the pope, not only as chairman of the Bavarian bishops conference, but also because it was his hearts wish to show the Holy Father his Bavarian homeland, where Altötting has a special meaning to him. In his autobiography "From my life" Cardinal Ratzinger talked about this home and the land of his childhood between Inn and Salzach. It says: "...I may not forget to comment that Marktl (the place of birth) is very close to Altötting, the venerable sanctuary from the time of the Carolingians that has become a great place of pilgrimage for Bavaria and Western Austria since the late middle ages. Altötting received a new blessing when the former gatekeeper Brother Konrad von Parzham was beatified and then canonized. We found the best of us embodied in this humble and good person and led to the most beautiful possibilities in faith by faith ...“.
Back then, in November of 1980, when Cardinal Ratzinger was seen at the side of Pope Johannes Paul II in Altötting and Munich, nobody knew yet that the pope would call this Cardinal to the Vatican in Rome two years later as his most important helper, that this Cardinal would advise him for 23 years until the death of the pope as prefect of the Roman congregation for faith, and nobody even thought about the possibility that this Cardinal from Bavaria would be elected to sit on the Chair of Peter by the Cardinals of the Universal Church after the death of the pope. Just how much our new pope Benedict XVI. appreciates the place of pilgrimage Altötting can be read from the words that he dedicated to a newly published city guide for Altötting on the date of January 2005. There he tells the story of the first pilgrimages at the hand of his parents, of the magic that the profanely glittering decorations on the devotional stands worked on him, or the gold and silver in the sanctuary; the churches and the obligatory visits, and other things that became the inventory of his childish heart, Later on, as a student, as an academic theologist and ultimately as Cardinal, he visited Altötting often.
We remember several festive events that he honoured with his presence and gave meaning and grace to as celebrating part and sermons, like for example the initiation of the 500th anniversary of the pilgrimage to Altötting in 1989, or the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Marian men’s congregation in 1999, his father already being a sodalist, or the Whitsun celebration in the year 2001. And the hope is probably not too much that Altötting will not have to wait too long to welcome him as a pilgrim and Pope Benedict XVI.
 
Pope Pius VI. a pilgrim in Altötting

Altötting and the popes, this has a long history that did not have its start with Pope Johannes Paul II.. Nearly 200 years before his time a Pope had already come to Altötting as a pilgrim.
Let us look at the year 1780. The Empress Maria Theresia had passed away in Vienna. After her, her son Joseph II. took the throne, who had far-reaching ideas to renew the state and went about realizing them right away. These ideas intended massive changes in the rights and life of the church. Pope at the time was Pius VI. (1775-1799). He undertook a rescue attempt and travelled to Vienna in spring of 1782 to visit the emperor. The Emperor was friendly and polite towards the Pope – but also deaf to his pleads. And the people at court that advised the Emperor, in front of all others the Chancellor, Duke Kaunitz, were arrogant and inconsiderate to the guest and treated him undisguised contempt. The Pope left Vienna on April 22nd, travelling to Munich.  There he wanted to meet up with the new Bavarian elector Karl Theodor, who already had been his guest in room once, and from whom he expected more understanding.
The Pope and his accompaniment reached Ried over Melk, Linz and St. Florian on April 24th, where the Thurn-and-Taxis council Joseph von Blank received the guest and accompanied him to Altötting, arriving on April 25th, 1782 around 5 p.m. The infantry of Hegnenberg was set up with 500 people on the chapel square and shot three „general salutes“ as the Pope reached the holy Chapel where he and his accompaniment were welcomed by the arch bishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Graf of Colloredo, Prince Wilhelm of Birkenfeld that was sent to Altötting by the elector, and the entire government of Burghausen and the monastery „with all bells“ and was led to the chapel for a short prayer, accompanied by the singing of the Benedictus and Te Deum. After that, the Pope and his accompaniment visited the monastery church and the treasury. Then the Pope moved into his accommodation next to the parish church.
 
„Almost melted in tears“
„An indescribable number of people“, some of them „from far away“ had come to see the Pope, who was very „guiding“ and merciful to them. He took a half hour of time to show himself to the people at the window and gave blessing three times. As a gift, the Pope received the history of Altötting and the Chapel bound in red velvet. The people. As we read in a report were not only extremely happy about the visit but also deeply touched and the majority of the present „almost melted in tears from all the comfort and peace“.
Early morning on April 26th, the Pope visited the Chapel, where he visited the mass celebrated by his confessor, „where the choir sang and the battalion gave three salutes“. Then the Pope blessed the „hearts of the passed Bavarian regent“ kept in the Chapel, blessed the people and continued on towards Munich at seven, stopping in Ramsau close to Haag, where elector Karl Theodor had come to meet the Pope.
 
Valuable apostle relict
That is all for now about the first visit of a Pope in Altötting. The pilgrimage to Altötting could look back on approx. 300 years of existence at this visit of the Pope of 1782. But long before the initiation of the pilgrimage, since the times of the Duke Tassilo III. and  the Carolingian King Karlmann, great grandson of Karl the Great, who resided in Altötting from 876 up to his death in 880 as „King of Bavaria and Italy“, expanded the royal palace, erected a monastery in 876 with the consent of Pope Johannes VIII. and had a chapel built, Altötting was an important central location of the state. Due to the gift of a Pope, this importance was strongly emphasized.
It was Pope Johannes VIII. who gave King Karlmann a valuable relict for the newly built basilica: An arm relict of Saint Philippius. Next to the „Holy Bodies“ of Saint Maximilian and Felicitas the monastery thus possessed an important apostle relict, and such were very rare and valuable, as St. Matthias of Trier possessed the only apostle grave North of the Alps. The monastery in Altötting was religiously upgraded with this apostle relict and it is not excluded that already at that time, 600 years before the initiation of the pilgrimage, pilgrims already were coming to Altötting.
In the early 10th Century, the first monastery of Altöttinger was destroyed, probably under the attack of the Hungarians. Three Centuries later the monastery was founded again by the Bavarian Duke, Ludwig the Kelheimer and the Salzburg arch bishop  Eberhard II. 1231 with papal approval. This second monastery would be maintained up to the end of the „Old Reich“. It was dissolved in 1803 in the course of secularisation.
 
The Inful of the Altötting priors
This monastery experienced the initiation of the pilgrimage in 1489, soon after that the religious schism and then after many decades again the brilliant rise of the pilgrimage once more. A significant contribution was made by the prior of Altötting, Martin Eisengrein. A pope showed himself as a great promoter of him and the pilgrimage: Pius V., who gave him „and his successors for all times“ the right to wear mitre, stick and ring. This right was nearly forgotten after the Second Vatican Council, it was reawakened by Johannes Paul II..
Altötting treasures a precious gift from Pope Pius IX. : A golden hanging lamp with the papal crest and the tiara in the octagon of the Holy Chapel.
 
Papal Basilica
One of the papal promoters of Altötting in the early 20th Century was Pope Pius X., who appointed the pilgrimage church St. Anna complete one year earlier as papal basilica in 1913. As a sign of gratefulness, he was illustrated on the image by the painter of the high altar picture already a few years after his death. Pope Pius XI. may be called a promoter of Altötting and its pilgrimage, and that even in double meaning. In 1929 he authorized the rebuilding of the Altötting monastery after over 100 years of vacancy. In 1930, he beatified gatekeeper Konrad of Parzham and four years later he canonised him
A great friend of Altötting on the Chair of Peter was then ultimately his successor, Pius XII.. Already as a papal nuncio he visited Altötting several times and called the young sister Pascalina Lehnert to his services in 1918, where the Altötting Heilig-Kreuz- monastery was still very young. She was to lead his household in the nunciature in Munich, later in Berlin and ultimately in Rome up to the death of Pope Pius in 1958. A few months prior to his death, Pius XII. gave „his dear city of Altötting“ a chalice, which is kept in the treasury today.