One of the most stunning Black Madonna chapels in Switzerland is located near Lucerne on a hill with a view of the mountains and Lake Lucerne. It was built in the seventeenth century after a Capuchin Friar Ludwig von Wyl had a dream of Our lady of Loreto, entreating him to build a chapel for her in Hergiswald. The distance of the chapel from the lake is exactly the same as the distance of The Holy House of Loreto to the sea.
The original Italian statue of the Black Madonna of Loreto burnt in the fire in 1921. The current remade statue displayed in Loreto was modelled after its Swiss copy in Hergiswald.
The Swiss chapel is a part of St Jacob’s Way – one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. It is a lovely Baroque building erected by a clear mountain stream. The gentle sound of the water accompanies the pilgrim entering the chapel. The stream disappears in the forest leading to a hermitage, which was built in the fifteenth century and was the original place of pilgrimage in the area.
What appears in front of a pilgrim who enters the chapel is simply breathtaking. The whole ceiling is adorned with 324 painted emblems illustrating the symbolic meaning of Mary’s role. The images were partly inspired by the Litany of Loreto and painted by Kaspar Meglinger, who is also famous for his Dance of Death featured on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.
The idea to cover the ceiling with emblems came from the Capuchin monk Ludwig von Wyl, who was inspired by Baroque artists such as Filippo Picinelli, author of Mondo Simbolico.
The sheer number of images and their depth is quite overwhelming. Below are just a few with English translations. You can see a few more here.
But the heart of the chapel is the house of the Virgin – a chapel within a chapel. It is a separate structure right in the centre. Inside there are votive offerings, frescoes depicting very down-to-earth activities around the birth of Jesus – a midwife boiling water for the newly born Jesus’s bath or Saint Anna cooking supper. The serene statue of the Black Madonna resides in the background.
I returned to the village through the forest, descending along the so called Path to Light. This is a Rosary Path with wonderful paintings illustrating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
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