A rock chapel in the Lusatian Mountains has been a pilgrimage site for centuries

The rock chapel in Modlivý důl

Modlivý důl (Prayer Valley) near Svojkov in the Liberec Region is one of the most haunting spots in the Lusatian Mountains. The monolithic rock chapel created in one of the sandstone rocks of a former mine is an old pilgrimage site that has been dubbed “the small Lourdes”.

The rock chapel in Modlivý důl | Photo: Jaroslav Hoření,  Czech Radio

The history of this pilgrimage site goes back to 1704 when a local farmer placed a picture of the Virgin Mary on the rock face and prayed for a happy marriage and sons. Others followed his example and in 1760 one of the locals replaced the image with a consecrated picture of the Virgin Mary.

People came to ask for blessings and rumors of answered prayers and miracles began to spread. The pious Countess Cervelli from Svojkov ordered the erection of a wooden chapel and the picture of the Virgin Mary was moved to the chapel.

But not everybody was happy with the new pilgrimage site. The pastor in Sloup resented the fact that local believers often went to the forest chapel to pray instead of going to his church. In 1807 the church denounced the processions to the chapel as idolatry and ordered it to be stripped of its interior and for the picture of the Virgin Mary to be transferred to the church in Sloup.

However the chapel was never abandoned and in 1832 the processions to it were revived in the hope of warding off a plague epidemic.

In 1836 a chapel carved into the sandstone formations replaced the wooden chapel, financed by Countess Alžběta Kinská. The countess ordered a temple similar to the cave in Lourdes, with a new statue of the Virgin Mary.

Virgin Mary statue | Photo: Jaroslav Hoření,  Czech Radio

In the 1840s, the Church softened its stance and the pilgrimage site was visited by Ferdinand V, the last crowned King of Bohemia, who would come here to pray in solitude. Around 1900 the chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Lourdes.

During the Second World War, the pilgrimage site and the Stations of the Cross leading to it were badly damaged, leaving only the rock chapel and the empty oratory. The Stations of the Cross were restored in 2016. In 2001 a new statue of the Virgin Mary was placed in the rock chapel.

Surrounded by legend, Modlivý důl is not only a place of pilgrimage, but an important part of the region’s spiritual history.

The rock chapel in Modlivý důl | Photo: Tomáš Mařas,  Czech Radio