Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Bismarckian Germany

Overview

In a riveting work of historical research, David Blackbourn brings to light the period surrounding the days in July 1876 when three young girls claimed to have sighted the Virgin Mary in the fields outside the German town of Marpingen. As journalists, priests, and sellers of pious memorabilia descended on Marpingen, the sleepy town rapidly metamorphosed into a cause celebre, with supporters and opponents referring to it as "the German Lourdes," and even "the Bethlehem of Germany." "It is an undeniable fact that ...
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Overview

In a riveting work of historical research, David Blackbourn brings to light the period surrounding the days in July 1876 when three young girls claimed to have sighted the Virgin Mary in the fields outside the German town of Marpingen. As journalists, priests, and sellers of pious memorabilia descended on Marpingen, the sleepy town rapidly metamorphosed into a cause celebre, with supporters and opponents referring to it as "the German Lourdes," and even "the Bethlehem of Germany." "It is an undeniable fact that the whole world is talking about Marpingen," wrote one sympathetic commentator. "Marpingen has become the center of events that have shaken the world," suggested another. Tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to the town, prompting numerous claims of miraculous cures - as well as military intervention, the dispatch of an undercover detective, parliamentary debate, and a dramatic trial. Pondering what had happened from another perspective was a man on whom the drama placed a heavy burden. "The events are so tremendous," wrote a Marpingen parish priest, "that a true account of them would already fill a book." Blackbourn, a leading historian of modern Germany, vividly portrays the Catholic world of the Bismarckian era through a detailed exploration of the changing social, economic, and community structures that formed its matrix, and provides a sensitive account of popular religious beliefs. Ranging widely across the fields of social, cultural, and political history, he powerfully evokes the crisis-laden atmosphere of the 1870s, revealing the subtle interplay between politics and religion, the changing nature of the family itself, and the ferment of ideas that fueled the great debate over "modernity." And in a final chapter, he looks ahead to the renewed apparitions of the Virgin in twentieth-century Marpingen against the background of war, Nazism, and the Cold War. A remarkable piece of historical detective work by an important scholar.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1876, three eight-year-old German girls gathering berries in the woods claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the village of Marpingen. Dubbed ``the German Lourdes,'' the solidly Catholic village attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims, many claiming miraculous cures from a nearby spring. Prussian authorities intervened with a military occupation, curfews, sometimes brutal policing and arrests, including the incarceration of the three girls, who were accused of deception but later released. Catholic clergy, alarmed by manifestations of popular religiousity, remained silent, while liberals viewed Marpingen as symptomatic of Catholics' superstition and disloyalty to Bismarck's Germany. In this engrossing study, exhaustively researched from German archives, Harvard history professor Blackbourn links the Marpingen visions to severe economic distress and persecution of Germany's Catholic minority. He also provides a social history of Marian apparitions from the French Revolution to the 1980s. BOMC History Club alternate; Readers Subscription Book Club selection. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In July 1876, three girls in Marpingen, Germany, claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. Blackbourn (history, Harvard) has deftly mined a host of sources both pro and con, official and private, that sets the event in the context of Bismarkian Germany and the Kulterkampf that pitted the state against the Catholic Church. Much of the conflict arose from the clash of cultures: "ignorant" peasants against the progressive, liberal statesmen; Protestant against Catholic. Combining history, sociology, psychology, and religion, Blackbourn gives us a picture, seen from several perspectives, of one small German town at a critical period, and, at the same time, examines the wider significance of what at first glance would seem an insignificant, parochial event. Recommended for both general and specialized collections.-Augustine Curley, Newark Abbey, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198217831
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Pages: 480

Table of Contents

List of Maps
Lists of Tables and Figure
Acknowledgements
Preface
A Note on Translation
Introduction
1 Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Europe 3
2 The Place: A Changing Village in the Saarland 42
3 The Time: Economic Crisis and Political Repression in the 1870s 76
4 The Visionaries and their World 103
5 Pilgrims, Cures, and Commercialization 131
6 The Reaction of the Clergy 173
7 The Apparitions and State Repression 202
8 The Catholic Response 236
9 Progress and Piety: Liberal Hostility 250
10 The State Climbs Down 271
11 The Church Stays Silent 305
12 The German Lourdes? Marpingen in the Twentieth Century 325
Conclusion 360
Notes 375
Bibliography 471
Index 494
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