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This stamp from the series “Churches in Austria” is dedicated to one of the most popular pilgrimage churches in the province of Salzburg: the church of Maria Kirchental “Zu unserer Lieben Frau Geburt” (On the birth of Our Lady) in Sankt Martin bei Lofer.
For more than 300 years believers have journeyed to this place of pilgrimage, which has been protected as a monument since 2000.The church was built starting in 1694 to plans by the famous Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and was consecrated in 1701. The external appearance is characterised by the two-storey eastern façade with its two towers and their small domes. Between the towers the image of the Mother of God with the infant Jesus is depicted. The pilgrimage church underwent extensive renovation a few years ago, upon completion of which in 2001, Archbishop Emeritus Eder described it as a “quartz among pilgrimage destinations”.
The interior of the Baroque church impresses with its spaciousness and brightness. The high altar in its current form dates from the time when the church was first renovated in around 1858. It is made from marbled wood. An altar piece in the form of a triumphal arch showing an image attributed with miraculous powers rises above the altar table. This image shows the infant Jesus in his mother's arms, holding a small bird, namely a goldfinch, also known as a distelfink, in his left hand. The child is pointing to the bird with the finger of his right hand. The distelfink is considered a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial death, with the red feathers on its head symbolising the blood of Christ shed for man.
The wooden statue of Mary and the child was the work of an unknown artist in around 1400. In around 1689 the farmer Rupert Schmuck brought the statue to the remote high valley, and soon afterwards the first pilgrims came to visit the little forest chapel with the Mother of Grace. Just a short time later, the then Prince Archbishop Johannes Graf von Thun decided to have a pilgrimage church built there. Under the supervision of the local master builder Stefan Millinger, the church, which is also referred to as “Pinzgau Cathedral”, was built within a few years.
Maria Kirchental is famous for its countless votive images, which were donated by grateful pilgrims. Since 2004 these small tablets and numerous wax, wooden, silver and stone offerings have been housed in the Kirchental Pilgrimage Museum, thus documenting the more than 300-year-long history of the pilgrimage church. In addition to the church, the ensemble also includes the former sacristan house and the former rectory. Today the “Haus der Besinnung” (House of Reflection) is home to sisters of the Missionarinnen Christi and to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who are responsible for the pastoral care of pilgrimages and shrines as well as putting on various courses and providing spiritual support.
Many people come to Maria Kirchental, which is located at around 900 metres above sea level in a high valley at the foot of the Lofer Mountains, as pilgrims, but hikers are also impressed by the oneness of nature and culture that prevails here and enjoy the peace of the remote location.
Technical DetailsIssue Date: 16.09.2017
Designer: Kirsten Lubach
Printer: Joh. Enschedé Stamps B.V