09.09.2016 - The procession...

...provides us with a picture of our own lives: The people of God in transit. What and Who is their destination? This persistent, age-old question is more pertinent than ever today.The 2019 Hanswijk ...

02.08.2016 - Procession 2019: Sunday the 19th of May 2019


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Various outlying hamlets were to be found around the old walled city of Mechelen; one of these was Hanswijk. It gained a name for itself at an early stage in its history, thanks to a legend recounting how a boat carrying a wooden statue of Mary ran aground at Hanswijk.

The origins of the cult of Mary

A vessel laden with merchandise, and with a wooden statue of Mary on board, was traveling down the River Dijle when it ran aground at Hanswijk. After vain attempts to relaunch it, the crew brought the statue ashore, and the boat was able to move on. This was taken as a clear sign that Mary had chosen Hanswijk as her dwelling-place.

Although the legend does not tell us exactly when this took place, 988 is regarded as the year in which the cult of Our Lady of Hanswijk began. According to tradition, the cult of Mary was already three centuries old when the Dalscholieren or Frères de l'Ordre (an order of canons regular from France) came to Mechelen in 1288 to look after the shrine.

The origins of the Hanswijk procession

The story of how the procession originated is a similar blend of reality and devout embellishments.
In 1272, Mechelen was assailed by civil unrest and the plague. In desperation, the people of Hanswijk appealed to Our Lady and carried her statue towards the city in prayer.

Alarmed by the large crowd, the city folk closed the gates. However, when the people of Hanswijk sang the words "Monstra te esse matrem – Show that thou art our Mother", the old Brussels Gate opened, and the group was able to enter the city. When soon afterwards Hanswijk's troubles ceased, a vow of gratitude was made that the statue of Mary should be borne in procession through the city every year.

Later history

The statue of Mary became the object of growing veneration. The old chapel outside the walls soon became too small. A church was built, which was destroyed by the Geuzen – protestant opponents of Spanish rule – in 1578.

A second church was constructed within the walls. When this likewise became too small, work was begun in 1663 on a new church, based on plans by the Mechelen architect Lucas Faydherbe. The church was completed in 1678.

In 1876, in the name of Pope Pius IX, the statue of Mary was crowned by Cardinal Dechamps. It was the crowning moment of nine centuries of popular devotion to Our Lady of Hanswijk.

On 6 October 1987, at the opening of the millennial celebrations of the cult of Our Lady of Hanswijk (988 – 1988), Hanswijk Church was formally elevated to Basilica status. On the occasion of this jubilee celebration, we, the people of Mechelen, paid grateful tribute to our Blessed Virgin, who has now offered us her motherly protection for over a thousand years.