The castle Amberg
Today’s Mariahilfberg in Amberg was once simply an almost 529 metre high mountain, originally called the “Amberg” and later the “Amberger Berg”. Then the Lords of Amberg, who probably died out in the fourteenth century, built a castle on its hilltop in 1100. The literally outstanding keep crowned the walls and served as a watchtower as late as the sixteenth century. From the castle, however, only the moat and isolated ruins survived. Blown away by the breath of history. Excavations still indicate a quite stable ring wall, which probably extended around the castle.
Plague, faith, pilgrims and fire on the Mariahilfberg in Amberg
During the Thirty Years’ War the plague raged in Amberg. Plagued by the suffering of the years 1633 and 1634, the citizens of Amberg prayed to Mary for help. People vowed to make pilgrimages to the saint every year in her honour, if only she would take the pain away from them. Caspar Hell donated a copy of the famous image of the Virgin Mary by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which was hung in the above-mentioned tower on 3 September 1634. This was turned into a chapel. Consequently, the people of Amberg now named their mountain “Frauenberg” and “Marianischen Hilfsberg”.
Directly next to the tower, the citizens built a round chapel, which, however, was not largely completed until after the war in 1642. Meanwhile, the image of grace remained in the tower. The site was henceforth called “Mariahilf”, from which the Mariahilfberg in Amberg derives its current common name. The ceiling painting of today’s sanctuary tells of the events that followed. Garnished with poetic decoration, it tells of the fire in the round chapel, in which an angel saved the miraculous image from the flames. This tale is safely relegated to the realm of mysticism, for the image still rested safely in the old watchtower. But such miracles open purses and so, thanks to numerous donations, the reconstruction of the chapel could be started.
Numerous pilgrims visited the Mariahilfberg in Amberg in the following years, so that eventually even the newly built chapel reached its limits. So in 1696 it was decided to build the present baroque pilgrimage church, which was finally consecrated in 1711. Now also the picture of grace moved to its new place of activity and the builders tore down the faithful tower. Since 1712, the image now stands on the high altar and whispers about times gone by. The church tower was built in 1726, the large staircase followed in 1859.
Franciscans, celebrations and festivals
The pilgrimage church and the monastery, built as a hospice at the beginning of the nineteenth century, are cared for by the Franciscan Order. Every hundred years, pompous jubilee celebrations were held to commemorate the beginning of the pilgrimages. Tens of thousands of pilgrimage coins were minted for these events, which also shows the sheer number of pilgrims and pilgrims. The last celebration of the 350th anniversary took place in 1984. In the meantime the Franciscan monastery on the Mariahilfberg in Amberg is run by five Polish Franciscan Fathers from Krakow.
An annual thanksgiving procession of the people of Amberg still takes place on a Sunday in May. Most notable, however, is the annual mountain festival around the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, July 2. There you can enjoy beer from the various Amberg breweries and the sermons.
Furthermore, the Mariahilfberg in Amberg is an excellent starting point for numerous hiking trails through the beautiful surroundings of Amberg.