The working group “Sanctuaries of Europe” was founded in 1996, bringing together the main places of Marian pilgrimage in Europe: Altötting (Germany), Czestochowa (Poland), Lourdes (France), Loreto (Italy) and Fátima (Portugal). A few years later, in 2003, the Austrian pilgrimage center Mariazell (Austria) joined the group, and in 2017 the most recent addition to the group took place: the Swiss pilgrimage site of Einsiedeln.
The “Shrines of Europe” network is a network of cooperation between seven cities that host the most important European sanctuaries of ‘Marian’ inspiration. The influx to these territories shows that they still have an ecumenical and spiritual vocation. The importance of these great Marian shrines was emphasized by the visits of the last three Popes, Francis, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who, being great devotees of Mary, visited many of these shrines during their time in office.
The sanctuary cities that make up the “Shrines of Europe” are spaces of faith, culture, heritage and peace. Every year, millions of visitors, believers and non-believers, come here on pilgrimage to participate in a celebration or fulfillment of a promise or, motivated and inspired by the heritage grandeur and the narratives of these places, in search of introspection and spiritual retreat.