The marial cult was not a phenomenon of the sole 1600′ nor was it limited to Luxembourg. Man, helpless and at mercy of the elements, of famine, war and epidemics, turned to God and even more his Saints through prayer, veneration of relics, processions and pilgrimages, and especially to one which presides them all, the Virgin, merciful, compassionate and comforting, who extends her maternel protection over the entire humanity.
The cult of Our Lady of Luxembourg, Comforter of the Afflicted, which was launched by the Jesuits in 1624 and led to the election of Our Lady as the protectress of the City in 1666 and of the Duchy in 1678, reflected a developing religious nationalism, expression to which was given in the yearly celebration of the octave of the third week after Easter, during which period pilgrims and processions from all over the country converged to the shrine of Our Lady of Consolation. It was indeed an embryo of national identity which crystallized through the cult of Our Lady of Luxembourg and in which the Luxembourgers were united as a national religious community.
The title Comforter of the Afflicted could not have been better chosen at a time when the country was in a state of utter desolation, the Thirty Years War was raging from 1618-1648, friend and foe alike devasted the country, plague and famine were omnipresent. Of the hundred years of the 17th century 71 were war years for Luxembourg and it can be said that this century was the worst in Luxembourg’s history.
On Dec 8 1624, the students of the new Jesuit college, led by Father BROCQUART, one of their professors, carried on their shoulders and in procession through the narrow fortress streets a statue of the Virgin Mary, and installed her beneath a wooden cross, erected there the preceding year outside the fortress walls. This was the beginning of the famous pilgrimage of Our Lady of Luxembourg. The following year a chapel was constructed at this spot. However construction stopped in 1626 when a plague epidemic struck the country as well as Father BROCQUART. Close to death, he made a vow, should he regain health, to finish the chapel. Upon recovery the sanctuary was finished in 1628 and consecrated under the vocable of « Our Lady of Consolation ». The pilgrimage immediately took unexpected dimensions. The number of pilgrims increased rapidly (30.000 in 1630), especially in 1636, when once again the plague struck violently throughout the province of Luxembourg. As the Thirty Years War dangerously approached the frontiers, when France entered the war in 1635, the fear and agony of the people grew day by day.
In 1666, Father Alexander Wiltheim, an eminent historian, and the curator of the chapel suggested that the Governor and the « Conseil Provincial » (the highest jurisdiction of the province) choose publicly the Holy Virgin as the patroness of the city of Luxembourg.