The Accidental Pilgrim — Part II
(photo of the Loreto by Mary Ann Glass, used with permission)
My impressions of Prague are bracketed by astonishingly beautiful colors, profound engagement with the dead, and deeply emotional stops on my Marian pilgrimage, which upon my arrival in the Czech Republic, I hadn’t yet realized I was on. The day after we arrived in Prague was the day we went to Kutna Hora, and to Sedlec to see the dead. We also stopped at two Cathedrals, both Unesco sites, both powerful Marian shrines. It wasn’t until shortly before we left for Germany, when we visited the Loreto though that I truly realized what was happening and that I was doing two pilgrimages instead of one (and oh I almost didn’t go. I was in a great deal of pain that day we were scheduled to go to the Loreto and so many things were lining up indicating I should go but I didn’t want to. I was feeling so pulled and yet was so resistant that I finally divined and asked Hermes’ guidance and was told in no uncertain terms to go there immediately. So I did and it was yet another gift given by the God of travellers on what had been an already blessed and fruitful journey…but I’ll get to that in a moment).
It was odd…and strangely discomfiting after Poland to find the chapels and churches largely barren of worshippers in the Czech Republic. There’s a different history there, and different things sacrificed I think upon the altar of survival. After the bone chapel in Sedlec, which was full of people – many of them praying, we visited the Cathedral of St. Barbara (Chango! Yes, I made offerings to Chango there) and the Church of the Assumption of Mary. There were the bones of saints displayed for veneration. There was a Gothic Madonna, which I had to circle about in my heart for a long, long time before I could truly find a point of connection. It wasn’t until I sat with Her later, meditating upon a photo that I had taken, that I was truly able to connect to the power of the image. After walking through the sanctuary of the dead, so much of the rest of my visit there passed as if in a deep dream, a whirl of Presence, light, color, and bones. It took me some time to process my experiences in the Cathedrals.
(my image of the Gothic Madonna)
One of the images at the Church of the Assumption really gripped me by spine and heart and gut and I had to sit and pay homage for a long, long time. It was supposed to be Mary but I immediately called Her the Lady of Lions and Her image took me elsewhere, stole my breath, and gave me for the briefest of moments a glimpse into venerations long past.
(My photo, Lady of Lions)
Both Cathedrals were beautiful and very moving though very, very different. I think I found St. Barbara’s the more barren of the two…there were no bones or reliquaries whereas in the Church of the Assumption, I had a moment’s engagement with the bones of a man reverenced as St. Felix (which St. Felix, I’ve no idea. There were a few. This man’s presence was strong and very comforting though) and I was primed on this journey first and foremost for the dead. I think that’s why Mary was able to sneak behind my guard!
(my photo, one of the Loreto frescos)
It all really came to a head at the Loreto. This was and is a major pilgrimage site to Mary. It contains a replica of Mary’s “house,” and it is beautiful. The entire walkway into the chapel is covered with frescos of the Madonna in various guises, lined with small chapels and candle naves. There is a church guarded by two saintly reliquaries and She is there, another black Madonna, beautiful, quiet, and full of subtle healing magic.
(“The Loreto” photo by Mary Ann Glass, used with permission)
They would let you in for free if you were only going to pray but we knew we’d want to document our journey by photographing and so we paid, and the kind lady let us in on one fare. I started making the rounds of the square, studying each fresco and praying – some images calling more than others. Where I could, I lit candles and prayed for a very long time to a number of Holy Powers, including Mary since it was Her home.
(my photo, the Loreto, my own private labyrinth)
The small chapel was beautiful and She was there. I stayed for a very long time. In the actual church (there is both a chapel and a church), I didn’t take any photographs. I couldn’t. I just sat and sobbed while She opened me up and deepened a process of internal cleansing and restoration that I began with help shortly before leaving the US. What passed between us there I will not share. It was a moment of profound heart healing and that was the moment I realized I was on this second pilgrimage. It was also the moment that any qualms or discomforts I had about venerating Mary disappeared. She’s not always an easy fit into my devotional life, but She has a place I don’t contest now.
We spent only an hour at this shrine, but it felt like days and days. I think my sojourn there was spent walking and praying between worlds and between the passing moments of time. It was passage marked by reverence and tears.
(my photo, taken in very dim light on my iPhone, of the Loreto Mary in Her small chapel-house)
I was sorry to leave Prague. The city has its own siren song. It’s seductive and compelling. There’s so much I want still to see there, and oh I would love to spend days and days in Sedlec. Already I long for the moment that I can return, if not to Prague than at least to one of the blessing places of bone.
(my photo, Sedlec, the sanctuary of bone)
Coming soon: Part III
Posted on August 18, 2015, in Ancestor Work, Ancestors, devotional work, marian matters, pilgrimages, Polytheism and tagged Ancestor Work, Ancestors, Devotional Work, Marian stuff, pilgrimage, Polytheism. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.