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.
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.
The renovation of Marienthal was preceded by the willingness of Prince von Metternich, as the owner at the time, and the Prussian diplomat Baron von Maltitz, to use their means to renovate the ruined Gothic church. That was the prerequisite for retrieving the Pièta, which had meanwhile been kept in Geisenheim – which happened in 1858.
It remains to be seen whether miracles have occurred since then, as has been repeatedly attested to after the first “healing” of a blind person in 1309 and whether votive tablets suggest. It is undoubtedly a miracle that such a place survived and helps to preserve the sacred landscape of the Rheingau. Perhaps not by chance, a small convent was built in the neighboring Nothgottes monastery. Where Franciscans, more precisely the split-off Capuchins, also worked from the early 17th century until the abolition in 1813, it is now a Cistercian community from Vietnam.
At the Geisenheim train station you will be greeted by a feeder from the Rheinsteig. The yellow emblem of course leaves out the historic center with the (neo) Gothic church Heilig Kreuz (Rheingau Cathedral) and the five-hundred-year-old linden tree. For this purpose, after the passage next to the tracks at the level of the transition to the left with the Prälat-Werthmann-Straße.
There are parking spaces on both sides of the barriers. There is also plenty of space in the generous residential area, which the sign crosses after crossing the embankment, touching some institutes of the University of Viticulture on the left in Hospitalstrasse and turning left into the Kreuzweg from Nothgottesstrasse across from the cemetery.
Through it we get seamlessly into the Wingerte, but after a slight right bend we remain for a while at the edge of the house, while in front of it the double towers of the neo-Romanesque church of St. Hildegard Monastery rise majestically. The direct route is opposed by the many cross lines of the vineyard paths, so you have to reckon with changes of direction several times on the gentle uphill.