Statue of Our Lady of Alsemberg
The Belgian town of Alsemberg has been a place of pilgrimage since the middle of the thirteenth century. The object of veneration is a Romanesque statue of the Blessed Virgin as the Sedes Sapientiae, or Seat of Wisdom.
The shrine of Our Lady of Alsemberg is one of the oldest places of pilgrimage in Belgium. There have always been strong links between the shrine and the Duchy of Brabant. That is why the church of Alsemberg is referred to as the ‘Ducal church of Our Lady.’
In 1640, the statue of Our Lady of Alsemberg was seriously deformed. In those times, it was a fashion to dress statues of the Virgin in Spanish royal dress. In order to do so, the Child and the knees of the Virgin were cut off the statue. This was necessary to make the dress hang even. In 1891 the statue was restored to its original condition.
During several wars the statue was taken from the church of Alsemberg and placed in the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Brussels for safety reasons. In the French-Spanish war of 1689 for instance, the statue was brought to Brussels. When the war had ended, it was carried from Brussels to Alsemberg in a solemn procession. Belgian Cardinal Van Roey crowned the statue on behalf of Pope Pius XI in 1934.
Our Lady of Alsemberg is venerated under the title Star of the Sea. The town of Alsemberg lies in the centre of Belgium. This has caused much speculation as to why Mary is venerated here under such a title. An ancient legend reports that the North Sea once reached up to the town and that Alsemberg (berg = mountain or hill) looked out over the sea. However, it is more likely that the medieval people were inspired by the hymn Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea).