For more than 1250 years, this town has been the spiritual center of Bavaria and for over 500 years the most significant pilgrimage site in Germany in the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Each year over 1 million pilgrims and visitors are drawn to the “Black Madonna”, a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary.
Opposite the altar the hearts of the Bavarian dukes, kings and electors are stored in richly decorated silver urns as a special sign of their deep and loyal ties to the Bavarian National Shrine. Among them is the heart of the « fairy tale king » Ludwig II. Due to the strong sentiments which the Bavarian people and their sovereigns have for the sanctuary of “Our Lady of Altötting”, the town was dubbed the “Heart of Bavaria”.
Preceded by Pope Pius VI in 1782 and Pope John Paul II in 1980, more recently Pope Benedict XVI visited what he referred to as his “spiritual homeland”. Two years later, as a token of his great esteem for the Marian shrine, he conferred the town with the Golden Rose.
A visit to Altoetting should include a visit to the Jerusalem Panorama – a monumental cyclorama showing the Crucifixion of Christ. One should not miss the Treasury and Pilgrimage Museum which houses the bridal wreath of the famous Austrian Empress “Sissi” that she donated to the Madonna of Altötting. The St. Mary´s Association’s “Exhibition of Dioramas” shows 22 dioramas which represent the history of pilgrimage in Altötting.
The pilgrimage town of Altötting is located in the lovely Upper-Bavarian Alpine region between Munich, Passau and Salzburg and just a short distance from lake Chiemsee with the famous fairytale castle, Herrenchiemsee.
The region around Altötting can be explored on foot on the numerous pilgrimage routes like St. James’s Way or by bicycle on the Benedict Trail, connecting the places where Pope em. Benedict XVI spent his childhood and youth.