Saint Joseph, patron of a happy life
Smakt is a hamlet near Venray in the Dutch province of Limburg. It is the only place of pilgrimage in the Netherlands where Saint Joseph is honored.
Already in 1699 a small chapel, dedicated to Saint Joseph, was built because of the long walk from Smakt to the church in Venray. In the centuries to come Smakt slowly grew from a small place of pilgrimage into a frequently visited center of prayer and worship of Saint Joseph.
Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Christian family and people say also prayers to him for the grace of a blissful death. In addition, only in Smakt Joseph is also invoked as patron of a happy life. In the past Smakt was for that reason a special place of pilgrimage for young couples.
The dedication of the chapel to Saint Joseph in 1699 has probably to do with the worship of Joseph in Spain in those days. In 1678 King Charles II of Spain had devoted his empire to Saint Joseph. At that time Venray and surrounding areas were part of the Spanish possessions. For this reason, the practice of Catholic religion was not prohibited there, as was the case in the neighboring Brabant Generality Lands.
In 1864 the chapel was enlarged and in 2008 thoroughly restored.
In 1886 a new bigger church in honor of Saint Joseph was built as a center for religious ceremonies. The old chapel was given the function of oratory. From that moment on Smakt became an important place of pilgrimage and it still is. Near the chapel was the ‘Pilgrims House’ built in 1910, a place where pilgrims could eat and drink and buy small religious objects. The ‘Pilgrims House’ still exists.
After World War II the Discalced Carmelites settled in Smak and they provided a great revival of the Joseph devotion.
Today there is still a large worship of Joseph. Especially in the month of March thousands of people come to visit the small chapel in honor of Saint Joseph’s feast day on March 19. In addition, the chapel of Saint Joseph is also known to many hikers because of the Pieterpad, a long-distance hiking trail, that runs right along.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007
Read more about Saint Joseph (in Dutch) or about the project Places of Pilgrimage