On the Levoča Mount

Na ľevockej hure (On the Levoča Mount)

Levoča has been known for its long tradition of Marian pilgrimages to the Basilica of of Our Lady of the Visitation. They rank among the oldest and best known in Slovakia. The Marian tradition in Levoča goes back to the 13th century. The first chapel on the mountain up above the town, originally called the Mount of Olives, was built in 1247, probably as a sign of gratitude to the Mother of God for the protection against the disastrous Tatar invasion that had been jeopardising also the inhabitants of Levoča.
The pilgrimage to the celebrated Levoča Mount is held annually on the first July weekend, on the feast of Our Lady of the Visitation (in the ecclesiastical calendar on 31 May, in Slovakia on 2 July). In the course of the 20th century crowds of pilgrims used to be heading towards it from all four cardinal directions. They would come from the North, from Galicia, also from the Polish side of the Tatras, Zamagurie and Pohronie regions, southern Spiš as well as the Košice surroundings and even Šariš and Zemplín regions. A typical sign to be seen during the pilgrimage was the sacred procession of the believers. In the processions to the pilgrimage place there were also young girls from the nearby Spiš villages dressed in special white festive clothes with flower garlands on their heads holding holy cards or procession statues in their hands. With them, there were young men also dressed in festive traditional clothing carrying ecclesiastical banners. A large number of church hymns with the Marian theme, which have survived from these processions, is an evidence of a rich Marian tradition heritage. An appointed elderly man or an elderly woman would precent the songs to be sung during the procession. Votive offerings used to be part of the tradition, too, which the pilgrims would offer at the altar on such occasions. It could be images of body parts, a house or a small child made of honey cake pastry or wax. They were sold by honey cake bakers from Levoča or Spišské Podhradie. The pilgrims used to buy various holy cards, rosaries or honey cakes at the Levoča pilgrimage as gifts to their loved ones who were not able to participate in the pilgrimage themselves.
The exhibition Marian Pilgrimage presents some objects that had probably been used before or during the pilgrimage by an elderly woman, a pilgrim from one of the Spiš villages in the surroundings of Levoča. They are supplemented by photographs from a collection of the Polish photographer Janusz Moniatowicz dating from the 1980’s.

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