Christian ARTworks | The Oktav (Luxembourg)

The closing of the Oktav always draws crowds to Luxembourg City. (Photo: – Roger Nilles – CC BY-NC-ND)

This month, our ‘Christian Heritage month by month’ column presents you the Oktav in the Archdiocese of Luxembourg. Being the country’s main religious event in honour of Our Lady Consoler of the Afflicted, it gathers thousands of faithful, who take part in the the celebrations and continue a centuries-long Christian tradition.Click here for more info

The Oktav, the pilgrimage to the miraculous statue of the Consoler of the Afflicted in the Cathedral of Luxembourg, is today the main and most attended pilgrimage in the country. The first traces of the pilgrimage date to 1624, when the Jesuits had settled in Luxembourg. One Jesuit father started promoting a pilgrimage among the students, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, carrying a statue in procession to the fortifications of the city (“glacis”). Little did he know that his initiative would be the beginning of a veneration set to last for centuries.

Since 1625, pilgrims or groups of students came to visit the image of the Virgin, Consoler of the Afflicted, later placed in a chapel by the doors of the fortified city. The growing popularity of the statue and the many miracles testified by the faithful called for a greater way of celebrating the Virgin. Since 1639, religious devotion was extended from single pilgrimages to a whole week, setting the foundations for today’s festivities. The statue was moved to the central church (later the Cathedral) and, on the 8th day, carried in procession to its original pilgrimage destination (the chapel in the glacis).

The local pilgrimage rapidly gained importance for the country and the surrounding region. The Mother of God became the patron Saint of the city of Luxembourg in 1666 and was later chosen as Patron of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The statue can be seen all year round in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Luxembourg, but, since 1921, its official pilgrimage takes place for two weeks, from the 3rd to the 5th Sunday after Easter.

The Oktav is celebrated with enthusiasm by all: pilgrims and tourists come from many regions to pray to the Virgin, taking part in different celebrations and processions during the two weeks, and the atmosphere is joyful and filled with devotion. A great procession marks the end of the 15 days, where faithful in traditional costumes carry the statue of the Virgin through the streets of Luxembourg City, accompanied by religious songs and prayers. The political authorities also take part in the celebration, as well as the Grand-duchy family. A great market is set up in the city, a cultural tradition of today that stems from the past, when pilgrims could make use of the many food stalls to eat after the fatigue of the pilgrimage.