Chapelle Saint-Quirin

The secrets of Luxembourg City's chapel in the rock

19.08.11 Quirinus Kapelle,chapelle Saint-Quirin:Foto:Gerry Huberty

Nestled in the Pétrusse Valley, behind leafy trees and in the shadow of the Viaduct lies the Chapelle Saint-Quirin, a small chapel carved into the rocky valley wall.

There are no signs, no brochures and no plaques on site to hint at the name or history of the chapel.

But, the layers of dust and cobwebs covering pews and statues locked inside the barred door and windows let passersby know that it probably hasn’t been used for a while.

Patron saint of Luxembourg

The chapel is named after Saint Quirin of Neuss who was, from 1544 to 1666, the patron saint of Luxembourg Ville. It has been an enclosed chapel since 1355, when the outer wall was built; the bell tower and rooftop were added during restorations in the late 19th Century. Religious uses of the chapel site can be traced back much further, however, as the Luxembourg City Tourist Office claims that the site was originally used by the Romans as an early Christian sanctuary.

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Place of pilgrimage

For centuries, the chapel was a place of regular worship and the site of pilgrimages by those faithful to Saint Quirin.

It was also frequented by those who believed in reported miracles of skin diseases (which often led to blindness) having been cured by the waters of the natural spring that still flows beneath the chapel today.

As the years grew long and new churches were built in the city, the chapel became too small and inconvenient for regular services.

Special services

A cross carved into the rock outside Chapelle Saint-Quirin:
A cross carved into the rock outside Chapelle Saint-Quirin:
Photo:Gerry Huberty

According to the Catholic Tourism Office, the chapel is still used occasionally for special services, most recently a few years ago. It is more commonly opened for groups of religious tourists making pilgrimages to the holy site.

Everyday tourists can still see most of what is inside through the gated, locked door.

Approaching the chapel, one will first see the source of the natural spring. The unnatural pile of dark rocks is actually an old shrine built on top of the water source to show that it was a holy place.

Look closely at the top of the shrine to see what remains of the rock cross that stood at the top.

Relics from the past

Gazing up at the chapel, one will see a bell tower and peaked windows in the roof; these windows allowed air into the upstairs attic, where the priest or caretaker of the church lived in the middle ages. Extending from the outer rock wall is a pulpit, used to deliver sermons or messages to larger gatherings outside the chapel walls.

The old wooden staircase to the pulpit door still stands inside and can be seen when peering to the right through the main door.

Inside, at the far rear of the church, is a square door carved into the ceiling, reachable by ladder. This marks the entrance to the caretakers’ quarters and to the bell tower to ring the church bells.

Protection against illness

Chapelle Saint-Quirin
Chapelle Saint-Quirin
Photo:Gerry Huberty

The interior of the chapel is split into two small rooms carved from rock. The main worship room holds several wooden pews for the congregation, an altar with replicas of original statues of St Quirin in the middle, as well as Saints Ferréol and Firmin; praying to each of these saints was thought to protect against illness.

Just out of view from the main door sits the back worship chamber, the church sacristy, where priests would prepare for worship or possibly hold small services.

A statue of Jesus sits at the middle of a stone altar, flanked on each side by replicas of statues of two of three virgins - Spes (Hope), Fides (Faith) and Caritas (charity), to whom the chapel is also dedicated.

The three virgins

Women visiting the chapel would often say a prayer to the three virgins, who were believed to protect children from childhood diseases. Not coincidentally, these three virgins are also the namesake of the northern Luxembourg town of Troisvierges.

The original 17th Century statues of Saints Quirin, Ferréol and Firmin, as well as an additional 18th Century replica of a statue of the three virgins riding a mule, are part of the permanent collection of the Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art in Luxembourg. They are not currently on exhibition.

While the Chapelle Saint-Quirin remains locked outside of special events, private citizens and tour groups that wish to visit inside the chapel may obtain additional information from the Luxembourg Catholic Tourism Office via the contact form on their website.

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