The History of the Shrine of Mátraverebély-Szentkút


Szentkút is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Hungary. It is located in a wooded valley near the village of Mátraverebély. The word “Szentkút,” which literally means “holy well” or “holy spring” in Hungarian, is derived from the holy water that can be found here.

Mátraverebély-Szentkút is located close to the Hungarian-Slovakian border where people of several different nationalities live, making Szentkút a meeting place for several distinct ethnicities.

According to tradition, the first miracle at Szentkút took place around 1091-92, during a time when a fierce Turkic tribe called the Cumans were conducting raiding expeditions deep into Hungarian territory. It fell upon the legendary Hungarian king, Saint Ladislaus, to fight back against the Cumans. On one occasion, the king was being chased by the enemy as he was riding through some forestlands when, suddenly, he reached the edge of a crevice. The enemy figured that surely the king would now be captured. However, after the king prayed to the Blessed Virgin, the horse catapulted across the crevice, and Saint Ladislaus reached the other side safely. Moreover, the footprint of his horse remained indented in the rock, and water sprang up from the rock. You can still see the footprint, but the water stopped flowing because of extensive mining operations during the Communist era.

The ceiling of the church depicts this scene. The painting was made by Albin Steffek in 1934.

The first miraculous healing at Szentkút also took place around the same time. A shepherd was tending his sheep in this area, accompanied by his son who was not able to speak. The son became thirsty and was looking for some water when the Virgin Mary appeared to him and showed him a spring to drink from. He did so; he was healed and he recovered his ability to speak. This scene is also depicted on the ceiling of the church and also on the top of the holy spring. From that time on, pilgrims started to come to this location in large numbers.

In 1210, a church was built at Mátraverebély. Since the holy spring is located in a narrow valley in a dense forest, the pilgrims tended to first congregate at the church of Mátraverebély, and from there continue on to the spring of Szentkút in a procession. By 1258, the church of Mátraverebély had already gained the privilege to grant indulgences to pilgrims. Starting in the 1400s, this became one of the major shrines of Hungary. In 1700, Pope Clement XI investigated some of the miracles that took place at Szentkút and found them to be genuine.

The Virgin Mary appeared to thousands of pilgrims in 1701 on the Eve of the Assumption.

The first stone chapel was built at Szentkút in 1705. Between 1758 and 1763, János Almásy built the present shrine and friary in gratitude of his miraculous healing. He received help from Ádám Antal Bellágh, who became a hermit. Several intriguing caves are located in the side of the mountain above Szentkút. Hermits were known to live both in these caves and also right next to the shrine. The last hermit, Jozafát Dobát, died in 1767 and is buried in the shrine. For a long time, Cistercian monks were living and working at Szentkút, and they received help from Franciscan friars during the feast seasons. After 1772, only Franciscans were to be found at Szentkút, but even they permanently settled down here only in 1857.

Between 1780 and 1790, King Joseph II banned all pilgrimages to Szentkút. In addition, he confiscated all silver and gold devotional objects and 38 paintings that depicted the healing of people. To get around the king’s rules, a bathhouse was built at Szentkút, allowing the pilgrims to come here under the pretense of visiting the bath. Szentkút flourished during the 1920s and 30s, exemplified by the fountain of the present holy well that was built in 1928. The fountain features a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and the shepherd boy on the top, and its sides showcase reliefs of the seven sacraments engraved on seven faucets.

In 1950, the Communist government imprisoned the four Franciscan fathers and six lay brothers serving at Szentkút. The friary and the pilgrims’ hostel was turned into a nursery home.

In 1970, Pope Paul VI donated the “basilica minor” title to the shrine.

Following the fall of the Communist regime, the Fransiscan friars were allowed to return in 1989. Due to the poor physical condition of the place at the time of their return, the friars set about to start making improvements.

Beginning in the early nineties, pilgrimages have once again started to become ever more popular. People have started to come to Szentkút not only from the neighboring villages, but also from more distant places. For example, every year around 200-250 people come to Szentkút by the way of a 150 km walking tour. In total, about 200 000 people visit Szentkút annually. They come for spiritual refreshing, for praying to their needs, and for receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

In 2006, Szentkút was declared the National Shrine of Hungary by Cardinal Péter Erdő. The principal feast day is held annually on August 15th (The Feast of the Assumption).

During the decades of Communist rule, only lesser improvements were possible, but a major reconstruction took place during 2012-15 thanks to the Hungarian government, which provided the financing for this undertaking. By and large, everything at Szentkút had been reconstructed: the shrine, the friary, and the open air meeting place used to celebrate mass. Both a new hotel and a hostel had been built for the benefit of the pilgrims. In addition, new souvenir shops, a restaurant, and a museum were also opened. These improvements have allowed us to receive with open arms the numerous pilgrims who come here to pray and ask for the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

We also receive many pilgrims from southern Slovakia, people of both Slovakian and Hungarian ethnic backgrounds. The Franciscan brothers living, working, and praying here would like to have Mátraverebély-Szentkút be thought of as a place of rebirth. Our deepest wish is for the goodness of God, as exemplified by the sacraments, to manifest itself here by bringing peace, forgiveness, and solidarity to peoples of different backgrounds and ethnicities. For this reason, we strive to welcome everyone with brotherly love at Mátraverebély-Szentkút.

(Magyar) Hírlevél feliratkozás




Nemzeti Kegyhely
Mátraverebély-Szentkút 14.
Telefon: 06 32 418 029,
06 20 400 58 78
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