Monday, January 28, 2013

The Nursing Madonna of Beurig

This amazing Madonna in its Catholic pilgrim church was unknown to me until 2002 when Ewald Meyer brought me from his home in Irsch to Beurig to visit it. That was a trip of about one mile. Herr Meyer had grown up in Beurig, which in former centuries, (sometimes only 88 people) would rightly have been considered a tiny village. As early as the 16th century, however, the church in this small vilage was as much a pilgrimage site as Lourdes, Fatima, and Santiago de Compostela. It was visited by numerous pilgrims from neighboring countries. All of my Rhineland ancestors must have known this pilgrimage site, visited it, most likely as part of a village pilgrimage, and been awed by it (The hardship of their pilgrimage was not impressive as most lived within 10 miles of it). Ewald Meyer, as a resident of Beurig, regarded the pilgrim church and the Madonna that it was built to protect as a source of pride for the village of his birth. A few years ago he wrote an extensive chapter about it in the book, Beuriger Lese- und Bilderbuch.

On the day we visited, Herr Meyer described, in German, the interior of the church and the location and size of the former Franciscan abbey. That order of priests and monks had been put in charge of the pilgrimage church in the 17th century. My German was not good enough to understand a lot of the detail in his explanation. But I did understand and laugh when he called my attention to a corner across from the entrance to the church. It was, he said, the former location of a bakery, because the pilgrims had been fasting and were very hungry when their pilgrimage was over. Those bakers understood how to select a good market place for their breads.

I really didn't appreciate the significance of the Beurig Madonna during that first visit. She was dwarfed by the fine late Gothic-style church built for her. I knew she was venerated and that some people were said to have experienced miracles through her intercession after they completed a pilgrimage to this site. I didn't look closely at the statue, carved by an unknown artist, on that first visit, and I completely missed something rarely seen on any statue of the Virgin Mary - her uncovered breast, about to give nourishment to her child, Christ, as he looked up into her face.  The statue is small in proportion to the tall altar piece in which she rests.

The Nursing Madonna

According to legend, the statue of the nursing Madonna - in Latin called "Madonna lactans" - was discovered by a miller’s apprentice. He found the wooden figure in the branches of an oak tree, which was being propelled downstream during a flood of the Saar River. This is said to have happened in the year 1304, which is also regarded as the first year of pilgrimage. The moment the villagers heard the story, they flocked to visit this miraculous Gnadenbild (image of the Virgin and Child).

A printed brochure once distributed to visitors to the pilgrimage site explained the story with a variation as follows: A miller's lad was making his way home through the Kammerforst (a woodland at the border of Beurig) when the evening church bells rang out. The bell known as "the angel of the Lord" rang out and was answered by a heavenly voice that led the boy to the statue, which was in the branches of an oak tree.

The representation of the nursing Virgin seems to refer to the Gospel of Luke (11:27) "Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked." However, this representation was not considered proper with the Catholic Church authorities of the times. Very early on it was "veiled" so that only the head of the baby could be seen. The rest of the child's body and the entire body of the Virgin Mother were covered in a very ornate dress of silk. From 1512 until 1955, the Madonna of Beurig looked very similar to other religious statues of the Madonna.

The restoration of the original icon was done in 1955 under Pastor Weber.  It was the first time in almost 500 years that a Beuriger congregation would see the original grace and expressiveness of the Virgin Mother's image in "unclouded beauty," with her right arm holding the infant as safely as if he sat on a throne. The intimate relationship between mother and child is evident and touching as I discovered in my second visit to the Madonna side chapel.

Mary's crown was not a part of the figure until the early 20th Century.  Retired Mayor Nicholas Ritzler wrote in 1912 in his History of the Castle and Town Saarburg: "A proof of the high veneration for the Beuriger Madonna gave rise to the solemn coronation a few years ago..." His description is probably based on the Jubilee pilgrimage of 1907.

The Pilgrims

Pilgrims came immediately after they heard the news of the discovery of the miraculous image. The first pilgrimage chapel was a small building of clay and wood. In 1330 a Marian society was established, which continued in existence until 1803. In 1479 the wooden chapel was replaced by a small stone church, but this too soon proved too small for the crowds. An impressive pilgrimage church was built between 1512-16.

At the start of the 17th century, pilgrimages to Beurig continued to increase. The parish priest was overwhelmed by looking after all the pilgrims. To provide him with support, in 1609 the Franciscans of the Cologne Order took over pastoral care of the pilgrimage/pilgrims and between 1615-28 they built an abbey with a place for the pilgrims to be housed during a short stay. The Franciscans remained in Beurig until 1803. This was a time when Napoleon ruled; he had pushed the border of France all the way to the left bank of the Rhine. This abbey as well as most others within France were abolished as part of Napoleon's secularization of all Catholic Church properties. After the departure of the Franciscans, the pilgrimages ceased, the abbey assets were auctioned off by the French, and the church was gifted by Napoleon to the village in Beurig as their parish church. Around the middle of the 19th century the concept of Beurig as both a parish and a pilgrim church was re-established; and pilgrimages came to life again.

Postcard showing the Madonna chapel and the veiled Madonna

Sunday, January 20, 2013

When the Name's the Same

Elizabeth Hauser and Mathias Meier are
my great-grandparents born in 1850 in Irsch.
He called her Lis; she called him Theiss

When I decided to write a novel about my Kreis Saarburg ancesters, I perceived a real problem almost immediately. My 2nd great-grandmother and her sister were both named Magdalena, and there was no good way to distinguish between them. The practice of naming the child after the godparent of the same sex resulted not only in two Magdalenas in the Rauls family but also two brothers named Mathias as well.

How was I going to distinguish which child in the Rauls family I was writing about? I considered Magdalena the older and Magdalena the younger. Or Mathias, (1818) and Mathias (1822). Those options did interfere a gread deal with the smooth flow of the story. For example: "Magdalena the older took the butter dish from the cupboard and handed it to Magdalena the younger." Or "Mathias (1822) bent to retrieve the dish while Mathias (1818) used his fingers to mop up all of the butter that had fallen from the plate." It was indeed a conundrum to be solved.

Many genealogist friends suggested I use the middle name, since that was commonly done in their ancestors' parts of Germany. However, in Kreis Saarburg, for whatever reason, there is rarely any church record showing that the newly baptized inhabitant of the village had a middle name. Perhaps that would have been frowned upon - a bit like stepping out of their class and imitating their betters. Was this some part of the sumptuary laws for the region of Kreis Saarburg?

I decided that using derivative names for my characters was the way to proceed, and I asked Ewald Meyer to give me those derivatives in the old Mosel Frankisch dialect, which he did. Also, he included information about the feast day of the Saint to whom each baptismal name pertained. He reminded me that in earlier centuries, children celebrated their Saint's name day, not their birthday.

Here are the derivative names and feast days for the majority of my Kreis Saarburg ancestors:

Matthias: (The Apostle who took the place of Judas. The grave of the Apostle Mathias is believed to be in Trier.)
The feast day of St Matthias/Matthew is the 21st of September.
The dialect names derived from Matthias are Mattheis, Theiss, Thias, Maeddi, Mattes, Mathes, Maddy, Matz, Maetz

Johann/John: (I have a problem here, since we have both St. John the Apostle and St. John the Baptist to consider)
The feast day of St Johann/John the Apostle is the 27th of Dezember, the feast day of St. John the Baptist is the 24th of June.
The dialect names derived from Johann are : Hanni, Häns, Hansi

The feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra is the 6th of December. The dialect names of St. Nikolaus: Kläs, Kloas, Nikla, Nekla,

Peter/Simon Peter
The feast day of St. Peter is the 29th of June (Peter and Paul)
The dialect names derived from Peter are Pitter, Pitt

The feast day of the Archangel Michael is the 29th of September
The dialect names derived from Michael are Michel, Mechel

The feast day of St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor, is the 13th of July
The dialect names derived from Heinrich are Heinz, Reckes

The feast day of the Holy Gerhard of Cologne is the 23rd of April.
The dialect name derived from Gerhard is Gerd

The feast day of the Apostle Phillipp is the 11th of May
The dialect name derived from Phillipp is Fips

The feast day of Mary Magdalene who stood under Christ's cross is the 22nd of July.
The dialect names derived from Magdalena(also in high German) are Magda, Lena, Leni, Lenchen

The feast day of Saint Ann, the mother of Mary is the 26th of July
The dialect names derived from Anna are Ann, Annchen, Änni

The feast day of St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist, is the 5th of November.
The dialect names derived from Elizabeth are Lisbeth, Lissi, Lis, Ella, Elli

The feast day of St. Margarete of Antioch is the 20th of July.
The dialect names derived from Margaretha are Margret, Gret, Gre’it, Gretel, Gredel,

Maria: (A name so beloved that from the 18th century on, the name of Mary was often given as the second name of male children, such as Carl Maria von Weber)
The feast day of the Holy Name of Mary is the 12th of September
The dialect names derived from Maria are Márie, Mari`, Ria, Merri

The feast day of St. Susanne, martyr, is the 11th of August
The dialect names derived from Susanna are Suss, Sanni, Sannchen

The feast day of St. Agnes, martyr, is the 21nd of January
The dialect name derived from Agnes is Angnes

The feast day of St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, is the 18th of August
The dialect names derived from Helena are Lena, Leni, Lenchen, Len, Hella, Helene

I chose to send only the above names to Herr Meyer since they are the most prominent in our family tree. There are many more names and their derivatives in the Mosel Frankisch dialect as well as in other dialects. Possibly you will never need to know them because you don't have two or more living children with the same name in the same family. But there are other reasons for being aware of derivatives. A knowledge of derivative names might help one realize that Grandmother Lena was not Magdalena, but rather Helena; or that an ardent list transcriber made an assumption that the record keeper had put the names in the wrong column. Take the very unusual derivative name for Heinrich, which is Rekes. The transcriber helpfully switched the order because the surname happens to be identical to a given name. Pity the genealogist who is searching for Heinrich Adam on a passenger list but is unable to find him because he is transcribed as Adam Rekes. Talk about a brick wall!

Postscript: even though I had not asked for a derivative summary of my name, Herr Meyer included a great many short and pet forms for Katarina: Kaija, Kaja, Kari, Karin, Karina, Karen, Kareen, Katalin, Kate, Käte, Käthe, Kathy, Karna.  The feast day of St. Katharine of Alexandria is the 25 of November.