The Silent Walk, a reminder of a Miracle
Every year thousands of people flock in mid-March at night silently, without loud prayers, songs or clerical attributes, through the old center of Amsterdam. This Silent Walk commemorates the Blessed Sacrament, also called the Miracle of Amsterdam.
The Silent Walk celebrates a Eucharistic Miracle that took place on March 15, 1345. In Amsterdam was a very sick man administered the last rites. However, after eating the consecrated Host, the man had to vomit and he threw the host up in the burning fire in his room. It turned out that not only the host had remained intact, despite the vomiting, but also that the bread was not affected by the fire.
Already in 1346 pilgrims flocked towards the Holy Place and a chapel was built on the site of the miracle, the ‘Kapel ter Heilige Stede,’ which became the center of a flourishing devotion. Amsterdam became an important place of pilgrimage and people came from far and wide to take part in the annual procession.
After the ‘Alteratie’ in 1578, when Amsterdam became a Protestant city, all this disappeared. Catholic worship was forbidden, at least in public, and thus the processions. Nevertheless, the devotion continued on a more modest scale in a hidden church of the Beguine during the 17th and 18th century.
The Catholic revival of the 19th century showed also a revival in public of the worship of the Miracle by means of a procession that walked the original medieval route through the center of Amsterdam. Since Catholic processions were still banned from public life this happened early in the morning in silence. This grew into the Silent Walk as it is still held today. The commemoration of the Miracle starts on the Wednesday after the 12th of March. The Silent Walk itself is done on Sunday morning between midnight and four o’clock.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007
Read more about the Silent Walk (in Dutch) or about the project Places of Pilgrimage