The diocesan town of Passau has long been a centre of religious life in Bavaria and Austria. In 1611, Prince-Bishop Archduke Leopold of Austria brought to Passau, his town of residence, a painting of the Mother of God tenderly embraced by the Child Jesus. The painting was the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder, a leading German painter, and was probably produced after 1537.
This outstanding painting was greatly admired by the Passau Cathedral Dean Baron Marquard von Schwendi. He had two copies of the painting made, one of which he hung in a wooden chapel in his garden at the foot of what is today known as Mariahilf hill. After having several visions of Our Lady, he decided in 1622 to re-locate the chapel with the painting to the top of the hill and to open the chapel to all the faithful. Interest was so great and the crowds of pilgrims so large that in 1624 he had to start building a church, which was completed in 1627. The architect was Passau master Francesco Garbanino, who was one of the group of artists from Ticino who brought Baroque art to Bavaria at the time. The new church rapidly became a highly popular place of pilgrimage. From 1631 onwards, it came under the aegis of the Capucin monks from the nearby hospice and from the monastery in the Passau Innstadt. They made Mariahilf into a major centre of pilgrimage for Central and South-East Europe, especially after the deliverance of Vienna from the Turks in 1683, seen by many as a response to appeals to Our Lady of the Succours.
The cult of Mariahilf (Our Lady of Mercy) is an important feature of the cult of Our Lady that flourished particularly in the Baroque period. Hundreds of affiliated pilgrimages sprung up, especially in Amberg/Upper Palatinate, Innsbruck (where the original by Lucas Cranach is housed), Vienna and Munich.
Although the cry of Mariahilf” – the literal meaning of which is “Mary – help!” was very widely used in the period of defensive wars against the Turks and although Marcus of Aviano, the Capucin popular preacher of the period, placed his struggle against the Turks under Our Lady’s protection, the devotion to the Mother of God was always primarily an expression of fundamental problems of human existence. This is attested by the innumerable accounts of miracles, by ex-voto images and by songs such as those written by Prokop of Templin, the poet of Our Lady and a member of the Capucin order. It explains why people from all social classes and regions flocked to Mariahilf until about a century and a half ago, when the enlightment period and the subsequent secularisation reduced and then practically put an end to the pilgrimage.
After about three decades, the spirit of Catholic Reform in Bavaria revived the pilgrimage from about 1830 onwards, this time as a pilgrimage confined to the diocese of Passau and the surrounding Austrian region. Regular processions and pilgrimages to Mariahilf still take place today.References:
For centuries, the Astrakhan Kremlin was inapproachable stronghold in the south-eastern border of the Russia. The first construction of the Kremlin began in 1587-1588 under the guidance of I.G. Vorodkov, a lector of Discharge Order. He laid the first wooden fortress with powerful solid walls and towers. The place of construction was chosen on the hill, known as “Rabbit” or “Zayachii” in Russian.
During the reign of Ivan IV The Terrible and Boris Godunov the wooden fortress was rebuilt into a stone one. For the development of Kremlin walls and towers state-owned official masters were headed from Moscow to Astrakhan. For best results executives used the old, but very strong Tatar plinths which were brought from the ruins of the cities of the Golden Horde towns. Stone citadel was built by the type of Moscow Kremlin.
Next two centuries have become relatively calm for the Kremlin. Its buildings were repaired, rebuilt and renewed. However, in the beginning of 20th century after the October Revolution access to the Kremlin was closed. Instead it was transformed as a military post, where groups of Red Guards were formed the Military Revolutionary Committee was placed.
In January 1918 Astrakhan Kremlin was once again in the middle of fateful events, when supporters of Soviet power fought with Astrkhan Cossaks. They attacked The Red Army that was entrenched in the Kremlin, from roofs of nearby buildings. Serious destruction was caused to the Kremlin after this battle. In 1919 the Army was reorganized under the leadership of Kirov to protect the outfall of Volga and to defeat the White Guard troops and foreign interventionists.
Only after the end of the World War II the town opened the access to the Kremlin. At the same time Kremlin ceases to be subject of military purposes. In the mid-20th century significant restoration works were held, due to which many buildings, requiring urgent repairs were saved.
In 1974 the Astrakhan Kremlin became a museum. Nowadays citizens and tourists of Astrakhan have the access to museum exhibits of the lifestyle of the Astrakhan Garrison. Moreover they can see Casual Suits archers and scorers, elements of their weapons and ammunition, the exhibition dedicated to the history of popular uprisings and corporal punishment. In 2011, after the restoration of the kremlin, Guardhouse exposition was opened, which tells about the life of Astrakhan military garrison of the 19th century.
Construction of Assumption Cathedral began in 1699 and lasted almost 12 years. The bell tower was erected in 1710. The exterior of the Cathedral was decorated with molded brick and carved with white stone. Windows and dome heads were framed by columns in the style of Corinthian décor and semicircular arches were filled with paintings with biblical plot. Three of such arches were arranged on each side of the temple.
The cathedral was divided into two floors: the upper church is dedicated to the honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tall and light temple was intended for ceremonial worships during warm months. The lower church which is dark lightened and surrounded by the gallery columns.