Onze Lieve Vrouwe ter Nood / Our Lady in Distress

Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Nood is a sanctuary in Heiloo.

The Sanctuary of Our Lady in Distress is (also called Capel and Oesdom) in the hamlet of Chapel south of Heiloo. On a hill at an as medicinal considered, well (the Runxputte) a chapel was built here in 1409 dedicated to Mary, which grew quickly to a much visited place of pilgrimage. The hill was later named Creep Mountain, because processions around the chapel were mostly kept crawling.

The chapel was destroyed during the Siege of Alkmaar in 1573.

alkmaar ontzet 1573Relief of Alkmaar

The ruins were razed to the ground in 1637 on the orders of the States of Holland and the pit was destroyed in order to put an end to the constant arrival of pilgrims. The statue of Mary was probably lost before. Although the measures did have some impact the site attracted still many pilgrims.

olv ter nood schilderij van G. de Jongh uit 1630Ruins chapel painting of G. de Jongh from 1630

In 1713 the cult was given a new impetus after the spontaneous gush of the water source of the well. Thus, the legend, but the most logical explanation is that in 1713 Kapel, still called Oesdom, was severely affected by the rinderpest and farmers saw a possible cure in the ancient holy water. For this, the well was broken open again. An alternative is that two innkeepers brought into circulation the story to improve their padding during the crisis caused by the plague.

After the well was reopened, even great religious ceremonies were held which the bailiff of Kennemerland occurred occasionally with violence. However, because the local authorities received a share of the proceeds from the sacrifices, the local pilgrimage could count on tolerance. The States of Holland, who had no financial interest in the pilgrimage, however, tried to finalize it in 1768, including by withdrawing the licenses of innkeepers in the area and remove the Creep Mountain and put trees on it.

By the end of the 18th century the devotion was come to an end. Attempts by the Catholics to buy the land in the early 19th century failed. Nevertheless, a procession from the Chapel to the Willibrordput still was held in 1807 in Heiloo. However, further processions were banned by the government; to enforce this ban, there was a garrison in the neighboring place Limmen. The pilgrimage was made impossible after Gijsbert Fountain Verschuir, the anti-Catholic former mayor of Alkmaar, bought in 1817 the property of the Chapel. In 1832 or 1833 there also came an end to individual convolutions and devotion fell into oblivion.

Around 1870, however, the scientific interest rose. From 1886 grew after incentives by missionaries, also in the parish Heiloo the desire to start new pilgrimages. In 1902 Father Geenen bought the land on which had stood the chapel and the well. The Catholic margarine producer Gerrit van den Bosch in Alkmaar funded excavations for the foundations of the chapel and the remnants of the Runxputte.

In March 1905 the presumed remains of chapel and pit were discovered. Another first pilgrimage from Amsterdam was held in July of that year. In 1906, a first procession was held and a wooden cross was placed at the well with a picture of Mary. The rebuilt well was fitted with a pump. The pilgrimage site was extended in 1907 and 1910 with neighboring plots.

olv ter nood runxputRunxput

In 1909 the artist Hans Mengelberg made a statue of Mary that would serve as a cult object. That same year, at the place where the medieval chapel had been, a new, temporary chapel was built. For increased pilgrimages a big church tent was put down. After the tent was blown down several times in 1912 the pilgrimage church of Our Lady in Distress was built in 1913, designed by architect Jan Stuyt. This church was intended as a temporary emergency church and should be replaced by a basilica.

Plans for a large church were in 1934, shortly before his death, made by Stuyt along with his son Giacomo, but was canceled in the early 60’s. Stuyt designed in 1929 the Grace Chapel, which was built in 1930 on the site of the temporary chapel. The forecourt of the chapel, where is located the well, was surrounded by a gallery. On the site there are also a calvary from 1911, a pond with altar and a Calvary.

On the railway a stop was made in 1914 for the special procession trains. The success of the pilgrimage was also the advent of hotels, restaurants, cafés and shops as a result. In addition to the grounds besides two monasteries were built.

Sources: “Heiloo door de jaren heen”, H. Oostendorp;  Heiloo voor en na Willibrord, J.H.N.W. Raat, T de Ridder; Noord-Hollands Dagblad, Historische Vereniging Oud Heiloo, Gemeente Heiloo en WiKiPedia.

More about archaeological finds can be found at the Baduhenna website. See: Links -> Stichting Regionale Archeologie Heiloo.