historical details- Steinbach the village officially received the name "Maria
Steinbach" in 1954 in order to distinguish this Steinbach from others - which
lies on the Iller about 50 km to the northeast of Lake Constance in the county
of Unterallgäu between Leutkirch and Memmingen. Until the secularization
in 1803, it belonged to the nearby premonstratensian monastery Rot upon the Rot.
In 1728, three wooden and colored set of figures of Rot origin, which formally
had stood in a field chapel, were taken to the church of Steinbach: a crucifix,
Saint John, and a Madonna the so-called "Our Lady of Sorrows",
whose chest was pierced by a sword.
three figures stood there "without any special notice for two years"
as reported by the chronicler. As of June 1730, reports of strange happenings
with the Madonna became more frequent from those churchgoers who experienced them.
Marias face was said to change colors and cry tears and move her eyes and
revelations spoke themselves around. Soon reports of answered prayers, healed
sicknesses, help in dangerous moments made the rounds. The increasing stream of
pilgrims, however, did not only win approval. The clergy of the surrounding parishes
complained that everybody was going to Steinbach whereas they themselves had to
preach in front of half-empty churches.
The criticism was so vehement that the Bishop of Constance felt compelled to order
that the statue be removed from the church whereupon the Abbot of Rot approached
the papal legate in Luzern for aid. In the autumn of 1733, a commission of theologians
met to examine the occurrences at the location. The statements of more than 200
examined witnesses heard by the commission have been handed down. Catharina Eggensbergerin,
the "Widow from Altusried", for example, gave testimony of having
noticed how the image of the Madonna "closed and slowly opened her eyes and
whenever someone left the confessional it seemed as if she was looking after them".
At first it did not make sense to her and she thought that "someone used
strings to pull the eyes of the figure", such as the tricks that were shown
manipulation on the statue, however, could be excluded. Carpenters that were consulted
assured that "not a single trick" could be discovered. All testimonies
of the eyewitnesses together - according to the commissions opinion - did
not allow for any other interpretation other than declaring the reported visions
true. The bishop decreed that the image of the Madonna "should be called
a truely miraculous and wonder-working one". During Whitsun in 1734,
the acknowledgement of the pilgrimage location was celebrated by a magnificent
thanksgiving festival, in which twenty to thirty thousand visitors took part in.
From this time
on, the news of the help received through the Madonna piled up. Alone between
1730 and 1738, reports were documented in the so-called miracle books giving evidence
of these miraculous cures. "Seven blind and eye affected, six with unknown
abdominal pains, two with mortal child afflictions, three who suffered from almost
insane-driving headaches, twenty who were lame on hands and feet, four who were
mute, and eight who were obviously in mortal danger".
Steinbach was developing - in addition to Altötting, Ettal, Maria Einsiedeln
and the Wieskirche - into one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the German
speaking south. The pilgrims came from the regions between Rhein and Lech, the
Swabian Alb and Lake Constance; even from Tyrolia and the Grisons. Between 1737
and 1740, 7050 masses were held, and the communion was administered 125, 835 times.
Soon the church
was too small. The pilgrimage priest and later abbot of Rot, Benedikt Stadelhofer,
pushed on the construction of a bigger house of God. The new church was consecrated
in 1755 and was built by several master builders whose names are unknown. The
interior decor with its lavish stucco was being worked on until 1768. The frescos
originated from the court painter Franz Georg Hermann of Kempten. The stucco was
created by Johann Georg Übelher of Wessobrunn and Franz Xaver Schmuzer of
Brot. And the organ was built by Josef Gabler from Ochsenhausen.
main pilgrimage dates were and still are Whit Monday and the celebration of the
Holy Cross on 3 May and 14 September. In 1849, veterans of the wars of liberation
came together for the first time and founded the tradition of a soldiers and veterans
pilgrimage, which until today has been on the last Saturday in October. This is
supported up until today by the veteran associations of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.