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Jakob Marx on the Exhibition of the Holy Shroud in Trier (1844)

In this passage from The History of the Holy Shroud in the Cathedral Church in Trier (1844), Professor Jakob Marx (1803-1876) of the Trier Theological Seminary vividly describes one example of the broad revival of Catholic piety in response to secularization: in fall of 1844, close to half a million pilgrims went to Trier to see the shroud worn by Christ before his crucifixion. Other manifestations of religious revival included the growing veneration of the Virgin Mary and the belief in miracles.

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The first healing, which happened during the festivities, was of the Countess Johanna v. Droste-Vischering and took place on August 30, a Friday. Because this healing increased faith in prayers being answered, challenging those who did not believe in the festivities, a short account of this situation is warranted. This Countess from Westphalia, the great niece of the archbishop Clemens August of Cologne and the Bishop of Münster, and who was a girl of nineteen, was lame and in suffering for three years and could barely get around on crutches. According to the doctor, she suffered from a kind of knee tumor which caused a shortening of the tendon in the back of the knee. As a result, the upper and lower parts of her leg formed a rigid right angle, prohibiting her foot from touching the ground.

In this condition, she went to Kreuznach for a third time to use the spa there in order to rid herself of this ailment. When she learned that the Holy Shroud of Trier was being exhibited, she had hope that when she touched the seam of this relic God would grant her healing from the most difficult of her afflictions, her lameness. She went to Kreuznach with her grandmother, the widow Charlotte Erbdroste zu Vischering, another lady, and servants. Right after her arrival on August 29, her grandmother wrote a letter from her guesthouse (the red house) to the General-Vicar Dr. Müller in which she informed him of her granddaughter's condition, wishes, and hope. She then asked for permission to touch the Holy Shroud. “My above-mentioned granddaughter, who is only nineteen, has so suffered under lameness for the last three years that she can barely move around on her crutches. She has faith and hope that when she touches the seam of the Holy Shroud, she will be healed from the worst part of her infirmity.” This permission was given and the next day the Countess, in between her grandmother and the other lady, went up the marble steps to the Holy Shroud, supported by her crutches. Once they arrived, the grandmother and other lady kneeled in prayer while the Countess remained standing with her crutches, deep in prayer. All at once, she felt her leg being released from its tension and let her crutches fall! She then told her companions, in joyous excitement, that she could stand again! She then kneeled and cried into her hands with such happiness and thankfulness that everyone around her was deeply moved and could not fight back their own tears. After regaining her composure she stood up and was led to the shroud where she kneeled again and touched it with the help of the Vicar-General Müller. After a few minutes of prayer, she stood up, left the assistance of her grandmother’s arms and, with both feet firmly on the ground, walked the marble steps back down. The servant lady, in tears, carried her crutches behind her. The Countess then went through the cathedral and outside to her coach.

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