A center of tourism and winter sports in Styria, Mariazell is also a much-visited pilgrimage site. It draws not only Austrians, but large numbers of Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, and Croatians.
   Mariazell began as a small Benedictine cloister around the middle of the 12th century. By 1330, its church had begun to draw pilgrims and to acquire influential patrons such as the ambitious King Louis I (The Great) of Hungary (1326–1382), who was pursuing an active expansionary policy to his southwest. It was he who endowed the church with its eastern choir, main aisle, and Grace Chapel. The structure was heavily remodeled in the Baroque style in the 17th century.
   Mariazell, with its Altar of the Virgin, was associated with miracles by the end of the 15th century. Pilgrimages increased in both size and number over the next hundred years. Beginning in 1632, the imperial family often participated in these processions. A so-called Sacred Road (Lat.: Via sacra) wound through Lower Austria to the site. Its 600-year jubilee in 1757 brought 373,000 people. Since 1893, a yearly pilgrimage of men from Vienna has traveled to the location. From 1975 to 1991, the basilica of Marizell was the temporary burial place of the Hungarian cardinal and opponent of Soviet communism, Joseph Mindszenty.
   See also Catholicism.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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