Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers
The Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (also Basilika Vierzehnheiligen) is a church located near the town of Bad Staffelstein near Bamberg, in Bavaria, southern Germany. The late Baroque-Rococo basilica, designed by Balthasar Neumann, was constructed between 1743 and 1772. It is dedicated to the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints venerated together in the Catholic Church, especially in Germany at the time of the Black Death.
The Basilica faces the important German river Main in Franconia. It sits on a hillside, and on the hillside opposite is Schloss Banz, a former baroque monastery. Together they are known as the "Goldene Pforte" or golden portal, an entryway to the historic Franconian cities Coburg, Kronach, Kulmbach and Bayreuth.
On 24 September 1445, Hermann Leicht, the young shepherd of a nearby Franciscan monastery, saw a crying child in a field that belonged to the nearby Cistercian monastery of Langheim. As he bent down to pick up the child, it abruptly disappeared. A short time later, the child reappeared in the same spot. This time, two candles were burning next to it. In June 1446, the Leicht saw the child a third time. This time, the child bore a red cross on its chest and was accompanied by thirteen other children. The child said: "We are the fourteen helpers and wish to erect a chapel here, where we can rest. If you will be our servant, we will be yours!" Shortly after, Leicht saw two burning candles descending to this spot. It is alleged that miraculous healings soon began, through the intervention of the fourteen saints.
The Cistercian brothers to whom the land belonged erected a chapel, which immediately attracted pilgrims. An altar was consecrated as early as 1448. Pilgrimages to the Vierzehnheiligen continue to the present day between May and October.
The mercy altar of the Vierzehnheiligen
The fourteen saints represented in the altar are:
- Agathius (or Acacius) (May 8), martyr, invoked against headache
- Barbara (December 4), virgin and martyr, invoked against fever and sudden death
- Blaise (also Blase and Blasius) (February 3), bishop and martyr, invoked against illness of the throat
- Catherine of Alexandria (November 25), virgin and martyr, invoked against sudden death
- Christopher (Christophorus) (July 25), martyr, invoked against bubonic plague
- Cyriacus (Cyriac) (August 8), deacon and martyr, invoked against temptation on the death-bed
- Denis (Dionysius) (October 9), bishop and martyr, invoked against headache
- Erasmus (Elmo) (June 2), bishop and martyr, invoked against intestinal ailments
- Eustachius (Eustace, Eustathius) (September 20), martyr, invoked against family discord
- George (April 23), soldier-martyr, for the health of domestic animals
- Giles (Aegidius) (September 1), hermit and abbot, invoked against plague, for a good confession
- Margaret of Antioch (July 20), virgin and martyr, invoked in childbirth
- Pantaleon (July 27), bishop and martyr, for physicians
- Vitus (June 15), martyr, invoked against epilepsy
The high altar of the Vierzehnheiligen
The central scene of the unobstructed and towering high altar is a lager-than-life painting showing the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The statues depict her spouse Joseph, her father Joachim, and David and Zachariah. The pulpit is also quite spectacular: free floating white putti bear the pulpit ornamented with the golden reliefs of the Evangelists surrounded by shellwork. The pulpit tester (sound board) is made of rays in a spherical shape.
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