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Frans_Jozef
Monday, July 4th, 2005, 09:24 PM
Scherpenheuvel celebrates 400 years of pilgrimages

The small Flemish-Brabant city of Scherpenheuvel has been welcoming pilgrims now for some four hundred years. Many of today's pilgrims and ramblers who make the trek to Scherpenheuvel for pleasure, most likely never stop to think how it all began. http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Flemish heritage magazine 'Openbaar Kunstbezit in Vlaanderen' recently published an article explaining how Scherpenheuvel became the country's number one place of pilgrimage.
Author Luc Duerloo claims that Scherpenheuvel came from nowhere to become Belgium's nation place of pilgrimage. Before the start of the 17 centaury locals used to climb the Scherpen Heuvel hill to ask for help from the Virgin Mary. A singe oak tree complete with an effigy of the holy virgin was to be found at the top.

http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Roots in Germanic superstition http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Tradition had it that the pilgrims would walk round the tree three times. The ritual which has Germanic roots would suggest that the pilgrimage place was not always purely Christian.

http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Albrecht and Isabella http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif By the 17th century the Catholic Church had the tree chopped down, the wood from which was used to make effigies of the Virgin Mary and paternosters. The rise in status of Scherpenheuvel during the 17th century had a lot to do with the religious wars which were raging in the Low Countries.

Grand Duke Albrecht and his wife Isabella in the South were engaged in a seemingly never ending battle with the Protestant House of Orange in the North. People were waiting for a heavenly sign. Then rumours started circulating that the effigy of the Virgin Mary in Scherpenheuven had cried blood.

Soon 20,000 people had seen the 'weaping Madonna' of Scherpenheuvel with their own eyes. However Scherpenheuvel needed some more miracles if it were to become a fully fledged place of pilgrimage. A weeping Madonna simply wasn't enough!

Proffesor Duerloo is certain that a least some of the miracles never occurred.
One example is that of an Organist Protestant soldier who came to Scherpenheuvel blind and left 7 days later being able to see again. His sight returned after 7 days penance and his conversion to Catholicism.

Scherpenheuvel was also important politically. The Madonna became a kind of General around which the Catholic Habsburg troops could rally. Albrecht and Isabella decided to
construct a basilica on the top of Scherpenheuvel Hill and the then village was given city status.


http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Four hundred years on http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/algemeen/images/spacer.gif Many modern day pilgrims to Scherpenheuvel have no idea about how it all started. Most of the 300,000 visitors a year coming more out of a sense of tradition than a sense of deep religious belief.



source (http://www.vrtnieuws.net/nieuwsnet_master/default/english/overzicht/050701_scherpenheuvel/index.html)