In her church Mariä Himmelfahrt, Kirchplatz 1, 55595 Spabrücken, county Soon, close to Mainz, tel: 06706-960107. About 3 ft tall, remains of a 14th Century, painted linden wood statue inside a 1909 recreation.
photo right: Ella Rozett
Schwarze Madonna vom Soon
(Black Madonna of Soon)
Soon is the name of the forest and the area around Spabrücken, where Our Lady’s church was erected as part of a monastery in 1359. The Black Madonna seems to have come to Spabrücken from a hermitage near Riesweiler im Hunsrück. In the course of the centuries she was damaged so often that in 1909, the sculptor Kaspar Weiß was asked to create a new Mother of God of the Soon into whose interior the old statue could be inserted.
The earliest document attesting pilgrimages to the Mary statue of Spabrücken stems from the middle of the 14th century. During the Reformation, the pilgrimages ceased for a while, because the local aristocrats and with them their subjects, became Lutherans. This lasted for 80 years. In 1648, they all converted back to Catholicism and in 1666, the people of Oberheimbach (20km away) rekindled the old pilgrimage and devotion. Their own special Mother of Consolation had been stolen during the 30 Year War. Now the Plague was ravaging the community and they needed a divine Mother to run to for protection. Their priest gave his blessing under the condition that the pilgrimage be repeated. And so the faithful have been undertaking an annual pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Soon on the first weekend in September for about 450 years.
The village welcomes the pilgrims by decorating the streets and houses with flags and candles and joining in the candle light procession the evening before a bishop celebrates special masses. During October, the so called ‘month of the rosary’ her devotees focus on this “meditative prayer to the Mother of God” (as the website says).
The Black Madonn is called a ‘Gnadenbild’, i.e. an image of grace, which means there is something miraculous about her, but nowadays it’s difficult to find anybody who remembers how she got this reputation. The last time she was really famous was in the 18th century. In those days up to six thousand pilgrims would come to her every day during her festival in September. We still have a book of miracles (“Mirakelbuch”), recorded in this era. It lists supernatural healings, prayers answered, etc.
Though devotion to the Black Madonna is no longer what it once was, the parish in this little village in the middle of nowhere, is still amazingly vibrant. This may be due to the continued presence of a religious community. The monastery adjoining the church of the Black Madonna was Franciscan for centuries. Now it is inhabited by an order of Augustinian nuns, who call themselves “the Sisters of the communal Life” (Schwestern vom Gemeinsamen Leben). They offer retreat facilities for individuals and groups, participation in their services, spiritual direction, Taizé services, etc. You can visit their website at www.kloster-spabruecken.de