Moravia and Silesia
Marian Pilgrimage to Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill)
When you climb Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill) from Mikulov and look at the town and the chateau below, you might wonder why the inhabitants built the castle that was to protect the surroundings on the lower hill, Zámecký kopec, and not here. No-one has been able to answer this question. The history of the pilgrimage site and of its name also remains unknown.
The hill used to be called Tanzberg – a dance mountain. Legends say that it used to be used for dance ceremonies related to the pagan cults of fertility and vegetation. Other legends say that during Walpurgis Night, witches danced there on their Sabbaths. Whatever the truth about the hill is, its name was changed by Cardinal Francis Dietrichstein in the 17th century. As an expression of gratitude to God for overcoming the plague epidemic of 1622, the Cardinal had the Stations of the Cross erected on the side of the hill and the Chapel of St. Sebastian at the top of the hill. Directly in Mikulov, next to the Franciscan cloister, he had the Loretto chapel built – a copy of the Italian holy shelter, and then had the Church of St. Anna completed above the chapel in the 1650s. Cardinal Francis brought a sculpture of the Black Madonna from Italian Loretto and put it on display. Legends soon emerged about its miraculous abilities to heal, almost daily, and pilgrims longing to be healed started coming to the town.
Building Loretto chapels and the cult of the Virgin Mary of Loretto spread in Bohemia and Moravia when pilgrimages were restored after the Battle of White Mountain. The annual Marian pilgrimage to Svatý kopeček near Mikulov goes past fourteen stops of the oldest Calvary in the Czech Republic.
Svatý kopeček is a magical place. This is probably thanks to the special combination of the surrounding nature – the place itself is a nature preserve with rare species of plants and animals – with religious architecture and distant views of the surroundings. Almost everyone who has climbed to the Chapel of St. Sebastian will confirm that it gives you a special detached inner point of view and peace. You have an opportunity to experience this on the first Sunday in September, when pilgrims come to Svatý during the traditional Marian pilgrimage. Boys and girls in costumes, children, the old and the young together climb past the fourteen stops of the oldest Calvary in the Czech Republic to join the mass by the Chapel of St. Sebastian. Together with them, the Black Madonna of Loretto also climbs the hill. The tradition that started in 1865 was interrupted only once – during WWII.