Shrine of St. Mary of Bistrica had and still has an important role in the Marian geography of the Croatian people. For centuries, pilgrims from all over Croatia and abroad as well as individuals coming in silence of personal pilgrimage have been coming to Marija Bistrica seeking and finding inner peace. In this Croatian Marian shrine the miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus is the greatest sacred object of the Croatian people. For centuries millions of pilgrims have been kneeling before it, praying, and the heavenly Mother helped them and answered their prayers.
The statue which had been hidden several times throughout its history from the impendent dangers was found for the last time in July, 1684 and placed at the altar. Pilgrimages to this shrine began from this moment on. Many answered prayers dating from 1688 to present day have been written down which shows great love and fidelity of the people for the Mary, Mother of God.
Shrine in Marija Bistrica became the national shrine in 1715, when the Croatian parliament built a big votive altar, thus approving devotion of the Croatian people to Saint Mary of Marija Bistrica. As Marian devotions grew and many prayers got answered by seeking intercession of Saint Mary of Bistrica, the shrine's church became tight and too small so Bistrica's parish priest Juraj(George) Žerjavić (1875 – 1911) had the church and the parish house with arcades extended and reconstructed following the designs of architect Friedrich von Schmidt and his student Hermann Bollé. The new church was built in Neo-Renaissance style.
Stations of the Cross
The idea for the Stations of the Cross in Marija Bistrica came from Archbishop Antun Bauer and his Coadjutor Blessed Alojzije Stepinac as they were observing the Stations of the Cross in Jasna Gora during the Eucharistic Congress in Czestohowa in 1935.
In 1943 the first four stations were carved in Italy in actual size from carrara marble. In 1972 the Archbishop of Zagreb Franjo Kuharić founded the archdiocesan committee for building the parish fetê site. In the years to come new stations were added to the Stations of the Cross, all works of our well-known academic sculptors.
Today the most important pilgrimages to Marija Bistrica even have their traditional names. Five pilgrim routes lead to Marija Bistrica and the hospitable inhabitants of Marija Bistrica take care of all pilgrims’ comfort and safety.
Religious holidays - parish fête – are a reflection of the traditional customs of Hrvatsko zagorje.