Hiking tip in the Rhine-Main region: Marienthal Abbey in the Rheingau

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AAs a sign to the Church and the faithful to remember the Christian mandate of devotion for the disadvantaged, the poor and the sick, Pope Francis chose Saint Francis of Assisi as his pontificate name. But even this gesture cannot hide the development that even affected those for whom the Franciscan creed is a life’s mission: the shortage of young people has taken on existentially threatening forms.

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The Franciscans have disappeared from public life, even the commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the first “German” settlement of the Friars Minor, as they call themselves, in Augsburg in mid-October 1221 received little attention. Monastery after monastery had to be abandoned, there were hardly five left in Hesse, the most powerful and conspicuous still in a place of pilgrimage like Marienthal near Geisenheim. There are ten older brothers who serve the neighbor through worship, confession, retreats, but also the temporary admission for contemplative retreat (“monastery to live with”).

Depiction of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

Since its appointment in 1873, this Marienthal convent has done everything with touching piety to upgrade one of the earliest medieval pilgrimage sites through liturgical and cultic institutions based on the Franciscan tradition. It began with portraits of religious saints in the church windows in the chancel added in 1890, led to a high-quality late Gothic crucifixion group at the outer altar that was transferred here, and finally to the extensive pilgrimage complex with colored stations of the Cross (expanded in 1906) and plastic depictions of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, whom they have been experiencing since 2007 facing the seven joys.

As Queen of Heaven, Maria also finds a separate place in the form of a stele, and on the slope behind it, larger than life Franz in a brown habit. The best-known legend of his work, the preaching to the animals, is taken up in a St. Francis garden laid out in 1915.

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