- Museum number
The pilgrimage to the Beautiful Virgin at Regensburg; with pilgrims flocking to the wooden chapel from which large amounts of votive offerings are hanging; to the right of the steeple the banner with the Virgin holding the Christ Child and the crossed keys of Regensburg painted by Altdorfer; in centre foreground various pilgrims collapsing on the ground or embracing the column on which the sculpture of the Virgin by Haidenreich is standing; good impression.
Woodcut and letterpress
- Production date
Height: 582 millimetres (Sheet size)
Width: 389 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- BM also has another, later impression on green paper stained with watercolour with reserved highlights, see 1870,0625.143 and a seventeenth-century impression with letterpress text, see 1873,0712.155.
Text from Bartrum 1995
Literature: C. Dodgson, II, p.244, I; Winzinger, 245; Hollstein, 6.
This and 1895,0122.78 are Ostendorfer's two prints related to the cult of the 'Beautiful Virgin' in Regensburg. It shows an extraordinary scene of religious hysteria at the temporary wooden church of the 'Beautiful Virgin', dedicated to an icon thought to have miraculous powers and set up on the site of the destroyed synagogue in 1519 after the expulsion of the Jewish community from the city. The image of the Virgin was popularised in a painting and colour woodcut by Altdorfer (1909,0612.3). The erection of a shrine on the site of the synagogue had been the original intention of Balthasar Huebmaier, a fanatical preacher in Regensburg who had stirred up a considerable amount of hatred for the Jews by accusing them of creating the city's economic problems, before they were expelled in February 1519. It was well known, however, that a miracle site would attract vast numbers of pilgrims which could alleviate financial difficulties. The survival of a stone-mason after a severe fall during the demolition of the synagogue was viewed as miraculous, and reports of further miracles quickly boosted publicity of the site. A list was published in 1519 reporting seventy-four miracles, and within three years numerous publications recorded as many as 731 miracles. Sales of souvenir lead and silver medallions are also known: in the first year just over 10,000 lead medallions were sold and 2,430 silver; in 1520 this rose to just under 110,000 lead and 9,763 silver.
Ostendorfer's woodcut shows pilgrims queuing up to go into the church; through an open door may be seen a representation either of the icon itself, or of Altdorfer's painting of the 'Beautiful Virgin'. Votive offerings of all types of common utensils have been attached to the building. Some pilgrims have collapsed in ecstasy in front of a statue of the 'Virgin and Child' carved in 1516 by Erhard Heydenreich (c.1455-1524), the architect of Regensburg Cathedral, which was moved to the square in front of the wooden church. The statue was later moved to the new Protestant church, but has not survived.
An impression of this print now in the Veste Coburg belonged at one time to Dürer (see C. Andersson and C. Talbot, 'From a Mighty Fortress: Prints, Drawings and Books in the Age of Luther 1483-1546', exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts, 1981, no. 184). His feelings of scepticism towards the cult are noted in an inscription, dated 1523, on the print: "This spectre has arisen against the Holy Scripture in Regensburg and is permitted by the bishop because it is useful for now. God help us that we do not dishonour the worthy mother of Christ in this way but [honour] her in His name, Amen." Dürer's words follow the teaching of Luther, who condemned this and other pilgrimages in his 'Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation', published in 1520. By 1523, however, the numbers of pilgrims were declining and by 1525 the episode was essentially over. For further literature on this episode, see Landau and Parshall, p. 409, n. 303.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2021 24 May-4 Jul, Canterbury, The Beaney, Thomas Becket and Pilgrimage
1999 May-June, London, UCL Strang, Prints, Propaganda, Popular Culture
1995 Jun-Oct, BM, German Renaissance Prints, 1490-1550, no.207
1983-4 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, Altdorfer's Christ taking leave of his Mother
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number