This religious catholic centre is known far beyond Germany as one of the places of Apparition of Virgin Mary, the earliest we have information about. There is a sculpture of Virgin Mary in the church – the Black Madonna. Thanks to her and miracles connected with her, Altötting is often compared to French Lourdes, another place of pilgrimage for Catholics from all over the world
Historians affirm that the first chapel dedicated to Virgin Mary was built in this place already in 660. It is considered to be the oldest Virgin Mary church on the territory of modern Germany. Later the church underwent considerable reconstructions. The famous sculpture of Virgin Mary appeared here around 1330. It is carved from linden and gold-plated.
In 1489 a miracle happened at the Virgin Mary altar in Altötting. A disconsolate mother of a three-year-old boy who had drowned in a spring, brought his lifeless body to the foot of the statue and offered up a prayer. She addressed Madonna as a mother who had also once lost her son. And a miracle happened – the child returned to life. There were other cases of miraculous cure at the Virgin Mary altar. Madonna’s face grew black with time, which was also considered a miracle of Christianity.
Today the church is a place of pilgrimage of Catholics from the entire world. Several hundred thousands of believers come here during the year. The church was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. The latter, being a native of Bavaria, presented his episcopal ring to the church of Merciful Virgin Mary. It can also be seen in the church.