Friday, 8 November 2013


Silent Night

The little Austrian town of Oberndorf is situated on a sharp bend of the Salzach River, downstream from Salzburg. At this place is a tiny memorial chapel dedicated to Joseph Mohr, a curate, and Franz Xaver Gruber, a music teacher, who created the world famous song ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’. The idea for the song came from Mohr and his idea was to write a song for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. In 1818 he wrote the lines and his close friend Gruber wrote the melody and it was heard for the first time in the parish church of St Nikolaus in Obersdorf. The rest is history. In 1899 the church was demolished as a result of flood damage and the Mohr and Gruber Memorial Chapel stands in its place. Both men are depicted in stained glass inside the chapel.

The Silent Night Chapel
The ruined Wernerkapelle in Barcharach in the Middle Rhine area of Germany has a dark secret.   Werner was a local boy whose body was found nearby and investigations concluded that he has been brutally murdered.  Local Jews were suspected of the crime and of using the boys blood for their rituals and Werner was regarded as a saint by the local people. Donations by pilgrims to the site contributed towards the construction of the Gothic chapel which commenced in 1294.  It was destroyed by war in 1689 since which time the ruins have been protected as an ancient monument.
The Wernerkapelle
The Holy Blood
The most important shrine in Brugge in Belgium, The Basilica of the Holy Blood, is tucked away in a corner of the square known as The Burg.  It is named after a holy relic which found its way to Brugge in the Middle Ages, namely a few drops of blood and water washed from the body of Christ by Joseph of Arimathea, contained in a small phial. The phial is kept in the tiny treasury in a large silver tabernacle.
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Secret Church
In 1661 Jan Hartman a merchant from Germany, bought three adjacent houses one of which faces onto the canal at No 40 Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam. Hartman was a Catholic and at that time Catholic worship was officially banned in Amsterdam. Between 1661 and 1663, Hartman built a clandestine church across the attics of his three houses – an amazing church now known as Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the attic) and one of very few such churches still in existence.
It remained in use until 1887 when the Great St Nicholas church was built nearby.
The Secret Church
Little Flower of Jesus
Building of the huge hilltop basilica at Lisieux in France, visited by some 100,000 pilgrims each year, commenced as late as 1926, a year after the canonisation of its patron St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and was completed in 1954 as her shrine.
Known as ‘The Little Flower of Jesus’, Marie-Francoise-Thérèse Martin, the youngest of nine children, was born in 1873 into a very pious family.  She was a frail child  and at the age of nine she nearly died, but a vision of Our Lady smiling at her, effected an immediate and complete cure.   At the age of 13 years, Thérèse  and her father began a campaign for her to enter a convent before the normal age of 16 years and she was subsequently admitted to the Carmel convent as Thérèse de l’enfant Jesus in 1888 when she was fifteen.  She was ordered by the Mother Superior to try her hand at writing which resulted in her autobiography, ‘The story of a Soul’, the most famous passage being fusion with Jesus in the form of a wedding invitation.   Racked by consumption, the ‘little flower’ died in 1898, at the age of just twenty five.  Following her canonisation she was made a doctor of the Church in 1997
Lisieux Basilica


Paratrooper John Steele
The little town of Ste-Mère-Eglise in Normandy is close to Utah Beach, where American forces landed on 6th June, 1944 during the invasion of Normandy in World War 11.  Airborne troops were used to secure inland positions and amongst the 13,000 men,  Paratrooper John Steele dropped from the sky near the Ste-Mère-Eglise and gained lasting fame when he actually landed on the church.  Steele’s parachute got caught on the parapet of the church tower and he hung there helplessly feigning death before he was eventually taken prisoner.   A dummy paratrooper still hangs from the church tower to this day.

St Mere Eglise Church

There is a fine stained glass window inside the church which depicts the event.

St Cado
The tiny French village of St Cado is on a circular islet on the Etel estuary on Brittany’s Atlantic coast, an idyllic place connected to the mainland by a single stone bridge.
The Romanesque church is dedicated to the island’s patron saint, St Cado.  This Celtic monk is said to have been able to cure deafness in all who placed their ears against his stone bed which is to be found inside the church.
Legend has it that St Cado persuaded the Devil to build the bridge to link the island to the mainland in return for the first soul to travel across.  It is said that St Cado sent a cat across the bridge before anyone used it.
The Church of the rock
Temppeliaukio Church is a Lutheran Church in Helsinki. Known as the Church of the Rock, it was consecrated in 1969.
The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock and is lit by a glazed dome. The rough rock surface gives excellent acoustics.

Temppeliaukio Church 


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