The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/49 – Protection of Holy Icons, Churches and Towns

 

In 1241, whilst the enemy of the City of Kiow attacked Poland, Saint Hyacinth was praying in the Church of ‘Our Lady of Kiow,’ the Metropolitan Church of Russia in Poland. A statue of Our Lady made of alabaster, came to life and spoke to the saint expressing Our Lady’s wish to be removed elsewhere. The saint carried the large statue of alabaster with ease into safety. A feast commemorating this event is celebrated yearly on August 28. In 1400, in Maastricht, the Netherlands, a group of Protestants attempted to deface the Statue of Stella Maris, ‘Our Lady Star of the Sea,’ for this sacrilege, they were supernaturally incapacitated and paralyzed. In 1688, the Marian Chapel dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Liege,’ in Chevremont, France, was miraculously preserved from the blasts of cannon and mortars. The statue was also reported to move and walk.

In 1478, a horse in Bois near Arras, France, protected a chapel from a knight who attempted at converting the holy place dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Bois,’ into a stable, the horse killed the knight. A feast was instituted to commemorate this event and is celebrated on September 5. On September 20, yet another feast is celebrated at Toul in Lorraine, France, as an Image of Our Lady saved the City of Toul from betrayal. In 1248, the Image of Our Lady came to life and informed a woman regarding a plot planned against the City of Toul, to prove the authenticity of the event, the Image brought out its foot, which turned into silver. In 1550, the canonesses of Our Lady of Paris were conducting a procession before the Image of Our Lady, suddenly a heretic ran through the crowd with a sword in hand, intending to strike the Holy Icon. The crowd blocked the heretic who was executed before the Image of the Blessed Virgin. A feast commemorates the execution of the heretic; it is celebrated on December 7, the eve of the universal solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

During the persecution of Catholics in 1560-1625, ‘Our Lady of Aberdeen’ is an Image, which was safely removed from Scotland by a fleeing Catholic family. The Icon was taken to Brussels in Belgium and is, to this day, known as ‘Our Lady of Good Success.’ In 1631, the aid of ‘Our Lady of Good Success,’ was invoked during a battle against Protestant Hollanders. The Belgians were victorious and the devotion to the Image, spread far and wide. Following the First World War certain Scottish Catholics, planned to ‘kidnap’ the Image and return it to Scotland. On arriving in Brussels and after discovering the deep devotion of the Belgians, the Scots were convinced otherwise, changing their plans they joined in the prayers and veneration.

In Germany ‘Our Lady of Altotting,’ is a statue which was carved from lime wood in 1330 and placed in a chapel built in 680, where Saint Rupert allegedly baptized Otto the Bavarian. The Hungarians sacked the chapel, however, it was not damaged and survived the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and the First and Second Great Wars. Our Lady of Altotting interceded for the Germans in a battle against Napoleon in 1814, Conrad of Parzham was the saintly porter of Altotting for thirty years and Pope John Paul II visited the Marian Shrine in 1980.

At the time of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, a baby girl by the name of Isabella Spinaci, was buried alive in a house during the bombardment caused by the Ottoman Turks. The child survived and as an adult married a certain Joseph Casauri. Joseph travelled to Madrid in Spain and acquired a copy of the famous ‘Atocha, Madonna of Madrid.’ Together with Isabella, he had a chapel erected on Braxia Hill, Hamrun, Malta in 1630, which was dedicated to St. Nicholas and later to ‘Il-Madonna is-Samra’ or ‘the dark Madonna,’ named so due to the dark skinned copy of the Atocha placed within the chapel. During the Napoleonic French occupation of the Island (1798-1800), the Maltese insurgents (otherwise termed Reactionaries to the Revolution) bombarded the French forces enclosed in fortified Valletta from the Tas-Samra battery. The battery was positioned in front of the chapel on Braxia Hill. The French were defeated, the French General Vaubois was killed and the British Empire acquired the Maltese Archipelago. In commemoration of the battery, two guns are still embedded in the ground in front of the Chapel of Il-Madonna is-Samra.

In 1898, a group of Bolshevik Revolutionaries, placed a time bomb in the Cathedral of ‘Our Lady of the Sign’ in the City of Kursk, Russia. At two in the morning the time bomb went off and the blast shattered the gilded canopy covering the Icon of the Sign. The marble steps were dislodged and cracked in many places. A heavy metal candlestick placed before the Image, was found far on the opposite side of the Cathedral. A cast iron door was thorn from its hinges and blasted into a wall causing a small breach. Due to the blast, all the Cathedral windows were shattered, notwithstanding all this, the Icon and its fragile glass frame were untouched. A commemorative procession on September 12 takes place every year. The Icon is taken in solemn procession by the Russians to the Kursk Hermitage and returned in the same manner the following day.

In 1921, the members of a secret fraternal society conceived a criminal incident, a bomb and some flowers were placed in a vase, which was deposited before the Image of ‘Our Lady of Guadeloupe,’ in South America. In the blast a metal crucifix placed before the Image was bent, the marble slabs in the shrine shattered, nonetheless the Image was untouched. Untouched also was a fragile pane of glass placed before it. Since the miraculous incident, the Image or ‘tilma’ is protected behind bullet and bombproof glass. Our Lady is not considered to be solely the Queen of the Mexican people, but the Queen of all the Americas. In 2001, the Statue of ‘Our Lady of Las Lajas’ in Colombia, was similarly attacked. Communist guerillas raided the town of Almaguer in the Cauca Region, in the Andes. These guerillas broke into the church placed dynamite charges at the altar, throughout the church and the rectory. When the charges were set off, the buildings were reduced to rubble. The villagers were at an incredible loss, especially as they discovered that the four-hundred-century-old altar and tabernacle were pulverized. For the consolation of the inhabitants, their Statue of the ‘Blessed Virgin of the Miracles,’ was in the midst of the destruction, found intact and unharmed.

The Second World War brought a vast devastation of the Catholic shrines in Poland. Holy shrines and churches were destroyed, mowed down by tanks; Icons were shot at as though they were the foe. According to a report by Cardinal Hlond of March 1941, the churches were despoiled of their liturgical objects and sacred ornaments. The Nazi Gestapo sacked the sacred Monastery of Jasna Gora, the Shrine housing the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The precious votive offerings were stolen and the priests and faithful, who prayed before the Icon, were terrorized. In an effort to lure Spain into war against the Allies, Herr Hitler presented Spain with pyxes, monstrances and Icons as a ‘friendly gesture’. The sacred items mostly originated from Poland. This gesture was not the right move and General Franco was not convinced. Franco himself had defeated a Spanish anti-catholic leader by the name of Manuel Azana who had assassinated  6,549 Catholic priests and 283 Catholic nuns. At Ignacow, in January 1940, the Nazis fired repeated volleys at a picture of Our Lady making sacrilegious comments as they did so, witnesses to this act comprised of the Parish Priest and the Sisters of Mercy. The Nazis destroyed the Polish wayside shrines and crosses, which were venerated by the peasants, who had adorned them with flowers and prayed frequently before them. Many shrines were works of art and in some places the villagers themselves, were forced to pull them down or face the Nazi death squads. Surviving crosses and broken fragments were taken to their homes, kept and venerated, awaiting better times.

According to Cardinal Hlond’s report: “In the archdioceses of Gniezno and Poznan, hundreds of way-side shrines and crosses have been destroyed and profaned…. In the archdiocese of Gniezno, from the time of the entrance of the German troops into those regions, numerous crucifixes, busts and statues of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints that adorned the streets and highways, were pulled down and smashed. The artistic statues of the patron saints, places in the squares of the cities and even the pictures and sacred monuments on houses and on private grounds met the same fate. In Bydgoszcz, the monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was profaned and destroyed… The statues and crosses in the Counties of Konin, Nieszawa, and Mogilno were all destroyed, profaned and trampled in the mud… All of the statues of Our Lady and of the saints in the Provinces of Poznan and Pomerania were either pulled down or sawn off in the middle. Even the oldest statues, famed for miracles and possessing immense artistic value, were not spared. The statues of Our Lady were the objects of a particular frenzy of destruction… In many parts of the districts of Poznan and of Kalisz the Germans forced the population, at the point of revolvers, to destroy wayside statues… In the town of Pobiedziska, near Poznan, the local German locksmith, who before the war served in Rawicz a sentence of 4 years’ imprisonment for burglary, was appointed Mayor by the Nazi authorities. When he saw people taking off their hats in front of the figure of Saint Laurence, he observed aloud: ‘This must be finished’ or ‘das muss ein Ende nehmen.’ During the night of October 28, 1939, the Nazis, led by a policeman, pulled down the statue of the saint. The statues of the saints in Rogozno and Ryczywol, in the Province of Poznan were also removed… In the County of Wolsztyn many wayside statues and crosses were destroyed. Everything Polish and Catholic was doomed to destruction. In the town of Wolsztyn itself three religious statues of great artistic value were removed. On the previous night someone broke off their arms and legs, it was obviously an attempt to provide an excuse for the total destruction of the statues… Religious pictures and crosses are being removed from factories and schools in Upper Silesia… In August, 1940, the Gestapo removed the crosses and religious figures in the town of Kutno. In October of the same year there was a congress of Hitlerjugend in Kutno; these German youngsters destroyed all the roadside crosses and figures left in the locality… In December, 1940, in the diocese of Siedlce, Nazi armed forces stationed there tested the powers of their lorries and tanks by driving them at roadside shrines, reducing the shrines to rubble. In this fashion many articles of spiritual, artistic and historical value were destroyed.”(1) Cardinal Hlond’s report mentions the destruction the Nazis caused in Poland, however, this report does not show any instances of miraculous intervention or protection. The Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa survived both the Nazi and later, the Communists’ assaults.

A Roman Catholic German named William Schludecker, was a pilot with the Luftwaffe. Sent by Nazi Germany, his squadron was ordered to bomb targets in Northumberland, England. While flying over Bolam close to Morpeth, during the Great War, his crew chose a few targets, however, William refused to bomb a civilian house and decided to bomb a train station instead. He launched four bombs weighing five hundred kilograms each. Unfortunately and to his dismay, one bomb landed upon a church. William knew that the church was consecrated to Saint Andrew and was well over a thousand years old. William carried this memory and was not free from his guilt. After the War regretting his deed, he returned to England, this time as a friend. To his surprise he discovered that unlike the other three bombs, landing on the train station, the one which landed upon the Church of Saint Andrew, failed to detonate. The Ex-Nazi pilot found a glass-stained window commemorating the event of an unexploded Nazi bomb landing upon the church. Terribly relieved, he visited the house which he had spared, and there the Whaley family received him kindly. The event was not wrought by the intercession of Our Lady, nonetheless, it is strikingly similar to the following event also occurring during those terrible years when the German Luftwaffe terrorized the skies. The English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, referred to the British colony, the Mediterranean Island of Malta, as: “…that unsinkable aircraft carrier.” Mr Churchill admired the fact that as wave upon wave of the Nazi Luftwaffe dumped their bombs, upon the archipelago, the British successfully stirred their Mediterranean base and assiduously persisted at destroying the Fascist Italian and Nazi German supply ships destined for Africa. Intensifying the war in the Mediterranean might have also served at keeping the Luftwaffe away from other territories. The Fuhrer had conceived designs of invasion for the British Base, plans were made for the use of gliders, nonetheless, the invasion was risky due to the presence of anti-aircraft guns and the landing dangers, caused by boundary rubble walled fields. Upon the beleaguered garrison of Malta, the Luftwaffe, unloaded approximately 6,560,000 kilos of explosives. Indeed, following Mr Churchill’s affirmation, regarding King George’s unsinkable Mediterranean Base, the Luftwaffe was sure to unload all its fury and ‘sink’ the Islands, if that were possible.

Nazi intelligence was in one particular case led astray, by cleverly crafted British counter-intelligence misinformation, regarding a strategic aviation fuel depot kept in the town of Mosta. This diversion was created to waste Nazi time and resources. On the continent 200 Nazi planes left their bases, they intended to obliterate the fuel depot and an aircraft runway in Malta. On April 9, 1942, the alarm was sounded and the people of Mosta descended into their shelters, while the courageous defenders who were on duty upon anti-aircraft guns prepared themselves. The planes bombed Mosta, one plane in particular a Junker-88 dropped two five hundred-kilogram bombs, one bomb struck the ‘Rotunda’ or the Mosta Church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’ and the second landed in a large garden. The Rotunda is approximately similar in size and designed on the dimensions of the Pantheon in Rome. The bomb landing in the large garden exploded on impact, the friendly owner confirms that fragments of this bomb still exist today. The other five hundred-kilogram bomb pierced the dome of the Mosta Church, bounced against an inner wall and descended upon the ground amongst a congregation of three hundred people. It failed to detonate. The Royal Engineers of the Bomb Disposal Unit, defused the Nazi ordnance and the Church dedicated to Our Lady’s Assumption was saved from certain explosion. A second fifty-kilogram bomb, dropped from a Messerschmitt-109, struck one of the two belfries. Similarly to the five-hundred-kilogram ordnance, it failed to detonate. This event was indeed interpreted as the miraculous intercession of Our Lady. Unfortunately, during this same raid the entrance of a shelter was destroyed and 120 people perished.

The facts speak for themselves; the Blessed Virgin protected many towns and villages throughout the whole Nazi invaded territory. In 1947, in Handel, the Netherlands, an outdoor altar was dedicated in honor of ‘Our Lady of Handel,’ for protecting the village and in 1948 in Herkenbosch, a small chapel consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima, was erected for the same reason. ‘Our Lady in the Sand’ and ‘Our Lady the Seat of Wisdom,’ in Aarle-Rixtel, is a chapel which sheltered refugees during the Great War. The Image of Our Lady in the Sand, was carried in procession through the town and Aarle-Rixtel was spared the Nazi onslaught.

The Lutheran Frauenkirche Cathedral in Dresden, Germany was built in 1670-1733 during the reign of the Catholic Prince-elector, Frederick August I and dedicated to Our Lady. The cathedral’s organ was first recited on December 1, 1736 by Johann Sebastian Bach. Its 314-foot-high sandstone dome, referred to as ‘die Steinerne Glocke’ or ‘stone bell,’ weighed 12,000 tons and was apparently deemed as being very stable. During the Seven Year War, Friedrich II’s Prussian troops fired 100 cannonballs directly hitting the dome, witnesses said that the projectiles simply bounced off, leaving the church unscathed. During World War Two, the cathedral survived two impressive days and nights, of continual Anglo-American Allied bombings, February 13-15, 1945. On the third day, 300 people sheltered in the crypt evacuated and the cathedral’s dome, which survived the bombings of 650,000 incendiary ordnances, succumbed to the intense heat which reached 1000 degrees Celsius (both outside and inside the church.) The altar piece which bears a relief depiction of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, survived the bombing raids and the incredible temperatures. The blackened stones were left in a pile, in the centre of Dresden for the following 45 years of communist rule. In 1982, the peace movements began at the pile of rubble and the surviving altar. On every February 13, before the rubble, the people gathered with candles and flowers in hand; on February 13, 1984, Yuri Andropov died. The communist regime headed by Erich Honecker, feared these annual meetings and proposed clearing the ruins completely. However, by 1989 the number of protesters increased to such numbers that the authorities could not carry out their task. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989, East and West Germany were reunified. The Frauenkirche, dedicated to Our Lady was rebuilt and completed in 2005.

Saint Kolumba, the Parish Church in Cologne was a victim of the ravages of the Great War. In 1945 following a bombardment by the British forces on the Romanesque Church, the sole surviving and well-preserved item was the Statue of ‘Our Lady and Child,’ which stood upon a pillar. The Child lost both the head and limbs. The people called her ‘Maria in Trummern’ or ‘Saint Mary in Ruins’ and is today located in the eastern wall of the newly rebuilt church. Other statues which were similarly spared from destruction, were the Statues of ‘Notre Dame de Foy’ and ‘Notre Dame de Dinant’ during the French Revolution and in 1942 the Statue of Our Lady in Saint Mary Church, Cologne, Germany.

The people of the Parish of Saint Pascal Baylon in Benoordenhout, the Netherlands, have dedicated a chapel within their Church of Saint Pascal Baylon, to ‘Our Lady of the Fortress.’ The reason for the dedication to Our Lady, was due to the parishioners who were miraculously protected during the Nazi bombing raids. All Roman Catholics were spared and none perished, this fate cannot be said for the people belonging to other Christian denominations. A commemorative stained glass window adorns the chapel showing Our Lady of the Fortress, covering the Parish with her robe, shielding it from the Nazi barrages.

In Roermond in 1418, a river froze for the sole purpose of allowing a Catholic army to reach an invading Protestant enemy; in commemoration a chapel dedicated to ‘Our Lady in the Sand’ was built. The Nazi bombings failed to damage this chapel. In the same town of Roermond, pictures of ‘Our Lady of Good Cover,’ were distributed amongst the couragious families who protected and hid both Jews and Dutch men, destined for the Nazi extermination camps.

 

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