Mariahilf Monastery, Innstadt - Passau



    Pen and Ink Sketch with Watercolor - Erwin Weber - 1983


The pilgrimage church, Mariahilf, and monastery is located on a hill overlooking Innstadt, a suburb of Passau. It was built to house a copy of the Innsbruck miraculous painting of the Madonna by Lucas Cranach, the Elder. In 1620, Marquard von Schwendi, dean of St. Stephan's Cathedral in Passau, asked Pius an artist from Passau to make the copy of Cranach's image of the Virgin to be hung in his castle. This painting became the rallying cry "Mariahilf" or "Help us, Mary", to live through the difficult years of the 30-Years War (1618-1648) when one-third of the German population lost their lives and countless cities and villages were burned to the ground. It also was the way to ask for help to stop the Turks from taking Vienna in 1683.

The pilgrimage church, Mariahilf, was constructed from 1624 to 1627 by Francesco Garbanio. The wood covered Pilgrimage staircase was constructed by the Cathedral Dean, Marquardt von Schwendt, and completed in 1628. The devout would enter the church by ascending the staircase with its 321 steps on their knees from Innstadt below to the Pilgrimage church, Mariahilf above by saying a prayer on each step. The painting of the Madonna was built into the high altar in 1729. Emperor Leopold I gave the church a chandelier as an expression of thanks for their prayers to defeat the Turks. The fixture is a masterpiece by Lucas Lang, a goldsmith from Augsburg.

The buildings surrounding Mariahilf church belong to the Capuchin monks a branch of the Franciscan Order of monks. The covered fountain dates back to 1638. The Capuchins at Mariahilf grow their own vegetables, herbs, and take care of a large rose garden. They dressed in brown habits with a hood, wear sandals, grow beards, and have little contact with the outside world. Weber sketched the monastery in 1983.