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The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill

The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill in Mikulov is one of the first places of pilgrimage in South Moravia and one of the oldest Ways of the Cross in the Czech Lands. The Way of the Cross as a whole is comprised of a total of seventeen buildings: 14 chapels on the Way of the Cross, Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, a bell tower and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.


Sample imageThe Way of the Cross symbolises Jesus Christ’s final journey from Jerusalem to Mount Golgotha (Calvary) where he was crucified. The tradition of establishing Ways of the Cross dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. The number of stations varied considerably when Ways of the Cross first began to be established (from seven to as many as thirty-one stations). Ways of the Cross in today’s form with fourteen stations began in the 17th century in Spain, from where they spread to other countries.

The Way of the Cross on Tanzberg Hill in Mikulov (known from that time as Holy Hill) was established by Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein (1570–1636), Bishop of Olomouc and owner of the Mikulov estate. The creation of the Way of the Cross was inspired, in part, by an endeavour to express gratitude to God for overcoming the plague epidemic of 1622. The first structure was evidently the chapel consecrated to Saint Sebastian, protector against infection with the plague. Its foundation stone was consecrated on 2 July 1623 and the building as a whole was completed in 1630. A Way of the Cross with seven chapels representing the seven passion stations had evidently already been built at that time. An exact reconstruction of the Way of the Cross in its original form is now extremely difficult. The chapels that have now been given serial numbers 1, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 can be assumed to have formed part of it, in addition to Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, the bell tower and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.

The appearance of Holy Hill then remained unchanged until the middle of the 18th century. Seven additional chapels were built in the years 1750–1776, bringing the number of chapels up to the then definitive figure of fourteen stations. The entire Way of the Cross in its new form was ceremonially consecrated on 1 September 1776. The Way of the Cross was now complete in its final form, and has comprised a total of seventeen brick structures since that time. The completed group of structures on Holy Hill was, unfortunately, to serve for just ten years. Saint Sebastian’s Chapel was deconsecrated during the reign of Emperor Joseph II in 1786, and the Way of the Cross also ceased serving the faithful. The entire group of buildings was destined for demolition, and was only saved from definitive destruction by the fact that it was the private property of the Dietrichstein family which decided to save the buildings and use them for private purposes. The buildings did, however, begin to fall into disrepair.

This place of pilgrimage was not to see a revival of its former glory until Augustin Bartenstein became Provost of Mikulov. The entire Way of the Cross, including Saint Sebastian’s Chapel and the bell tower, was repaired in the years 1862–1865. Saint Sebastian’s Chapel was again consecrated on the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September). Two traditions – the Way of the Cross on Holy Hill and the pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Loreto in Mikulov, whose statue was originally placed in the Loreto Chapel at Saint Anne’s Church (today’s Dietrichstein crypt) – have, therefore, been interlinked since 1865.

The tradition of Marian Pilgrimages that began in 1865, with the statue of the Mikulov Madonna being taken up Holy Hill, has been interrupted only once, in the years 1938–1945, when the pilgrimages were banned. The entire Way of the Cross suffered considerable damage towards the end of the Second World War, though work on its restoration began immediately following the end of the war, and the first post-war pilgrimage to Holy Hill was held in September 1946. The ownership rights to the pilgrimage site passed in the same year to the Collegiate Chapter at Saint Wenceslas’s in Mikulov, meaning that the church became both its spiritual and liable owner.


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