Slovakia: Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows Day (15 September)
Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows Day (Sviatok Sedembolestnej Panny Márie) is a non-working holiday in Slovakia celebrated on 15 September. It is a Catholic holiday devoted to the Virgin Mary in her incarnation as Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, Patron of Slovakia
The Šaštín Pieta at the National Basilica, Šaštín-Stráže, Slovakia
The main event of the holiday is celebrated at the National Basilica in the small town of Šaštín-Stráže in Western Slovakia.
While 15 September became a state holiday in 1993 (first observed in 1994), the pilgrimage to Šaštín traces its roots back to 1564 when the wife of a Hungarian nobleman commissioned a statue of the Sorrowful Mother in thanks for an answered prayer. This statue, the Šaštín Pieta, has become the ritual object of attention for pilgrims since that time.
When Empress Maria Theresa noticed the large number of pilgrims coming to visit the statue, she requested that a larger church be built to house the Pieta. In 1764, with Maria Theresa in attendance, the cathedral in Šaštín was consecrated.
In 1927, Pope Pius XI first proclaimed Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows as Patron of all of Slovakia, and in 1964, Pope Paul VI strengthened this proclamation by designating the Šaštín cathedral devoted to her as a Basilica Minor, the first basilica in Slovakia. In his 1995 visit to the country, Pope John Paul II added a golden crown to the statue.
Today, the pilgrimage to Šaštín is the main event of the national holiday. In addition to the top clergy in Slovakia, members of the Národná Rada SR (the Slovak parliament) and even the President of Slovakia are often in attendance. Typically, the event is broadcast on several television channels so that people may participate in the event without actually attending. In 2010, an estimated 20,000 pilgrims showed up for the 15 September event.