The Virgin of Einsiedeln
S. Maria Einsiedlensis.
Woodcut on paper, with colored paper and metallic additions.
[Einsiedeln, late 18th century]. (BRB1456)
The Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was founded by the hermit St. Meinrad in the ninth century. Already during the lifetime of the monastery’s first abbot, St. Eberhard, accounts of protection and healing enacted by a statue of the Virgin and Child at Einsiedeln began to attract pilgrims. Although the original statue was destroyed in a fire in 1466, its equally miraculous replacement, the “Black Madonna of Einsiedeln,” darkened by centuries of candle-smoke, remains a popular pilgrimage destination to this day.
The exhibited woodcut, decorated with colored paper cutouts and gold foil, depicts the famous statue hovering in the heavens above the eighteenth-century Abbey of Einsiedeln. Cherubs hold aloft scrolls in German and French that identify the Virgin of Einsiedeln as the refuge of sinners, while St. Meinrad and St. Eberhard kneel in the clouds below. Such prints presumably were sold at Einsiedeln as souvenirs to pilgrims, either in their unaltered or their adorned state.