The apparitions of Mary in Marpingen are reports of the three eight-year-old girls Katharina Hubertus, Susanna Leist and Margaretha Kunz, that the Virgin Mary appeared to them several times in the Härtelwald of what is now the Saarland village of Marpingen . The girls wanted the first apparition on July 3, 1876, the last on September 3, 1877.
The reports of the apparitions of Mary , which the children later repeatedly revoked and which are not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, attracted thousands of pilgrims within a few days . Soon other people, children and adults, were also convinced that they had seen the apparition or reported that they had been miraculously cured of illnesses. The crowds caught the attention of the authorities, who thereupon on July 13, 1876, with the help of the military, disbanded the praying and singing flock of pilgrims at the place of apparition. Against the background of the KulturkampfBetween the German Empire and the Roman Catholic Church there were subsequently arrests, the closure of the Härtelwald and the admission of the three children to a reformatory .
The apparitions of Mary in Marpingen attracted attention across Europe. The place was referred to by supporters as the "German Lourdes " and employed courts in the Rhineland and the Prussian state parliament in Berlin.
The apparitions of Mary in Marpingen
Marpingen and the Diocese of Trier at the time of the Kulturkampf
Like many other rural communities, Marpingen went through major upheavals in the 19th century. The Catholic Principality of Lichtenberg , to which Marpingen belonged, had been sold in 1834 by Duke Ernst I to Protestant Prussia . The village had 1,622 inhabitants in 1875, almost all of whom were Roman Catholic. Half of the population were miners.  The change from a largely rural dominated community to a village where the majority of the working male population during the week in the mines worked the Old Forest, Maybach, Itzenplitz and Dechen and there in sleeping houses found shelter, took place within a generation. The depression phase after the Gründerkrach of 1873, the so-called founder crisis , meant social decline for these miners. There were layoffs and working hours extended while wages were cut, so that the families could barely live on the salary of a miner. 
Even before the apparitions of Mary in 1876/1877, Marpingen suffered from the consequences of the culture war between the Prussian state and the Roman Catholic Church. The Trier bishop Matthias Eberhard was arrested on March 6, 1874 as the second Prussian bishop and then sentenced to a fine of 130,000 gold marks and nine months in prison.  He died on May 30, 1876, six months after his release from prison. At the time of his death, 250 diocesan priests had been tried and 230 of 731 parishes in the diocese were vacant.  The parish of Marpingen was spared from these effects of the May Laws , as its parish priestJakob Neureuter had been in office since 1864. In the neighboring parish of Namborn , however, the appointment of pastor Jakob Isbert in 1873 led to the so-called " Namborn case ". 
David Blackbourn argues that there was a pervasive sense of abandonment and despair in Catholic communities at the time. Many longed for divine intervention against their earthly tribulations, and against the backdrop of the resurgence of Marian piety, the hope of many Catholics was attached to the Virgin Mary. 
In Marpingen, since ancient times, villagers and residents of the surrounding area have been making pilgrimages to the so-called “Maieborn”, asking for a good harvest and a blessing of the weather. The “Maieborn” bubbled heavily after the snow melted before the beginning of the cultivation and usually dried up in autumn after the end of the annual cultivation period. The spring was associated with the Virgin Mary and a Marian place of worship was established in her honor. This pilgrimage site is not to be confused with the alleged place of appearance in the years 1876/1877 (and 1999) in the Marpinger Härtelwald. [8th]
When the Archbishop of Poznan and Gniezno, Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski , was arrested in early February 1874 , the German episcopate called on Catholics to appeal to the Virgin Mary for intercession. After his release from prison, Bishop Eberhard also made a pilgrimage to the Marian pilgrimage site of Eberhards-Clausen and described the Virgin Mary as "our protection and umbrella". With this he alluded to the intercessory prayer addressed to Mary “ Under your protection and umbrella ”. One of the messages from Marpingen was that this prayer should be said regularly. Characteristic of these years was an increased occurrence of Marian apparitions, which led to local veneration, even if in many cases the Catholic Church tried to prevent this due to the lack of credibility of the apparitions. 
The Marian apparitions
Margaretha Kunz, Katharina Hubertus and Susanna Leist were eight years old when they first reported about an apparition of Mary. All three came from poorer backgrounds, although Susanna Leist's father owned cows, meadows and barns. Margaretha Kunz was the youngest of ten siblings, her father had died in an accident before she was born. The debts left by the father forced the family to sell their mill. Margaretha Kunz was later unanimously described by her contemporaries as the smartest of the three girls. 
On July 3, 1876, the day after the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary , the girls were in the woods picking blueberries when Susanna Leist cried out and pointed out a white woman to the other girls.  Parents 'reactions to the girls' reports varied, but were all characterized by skepticism.
The girls found support as their accounts of apparitions continued. Katharina's father accompanied the girls to the place of apparition on July 5, together with two other men. After he was convinced that the girls were not deliberately lying, he was convinced that their report was correct. He was one of the first to propose the building of a chapel to Pastor Jakob Neureuter , and later reported that on August 3, 1876, he heard the angels singing and praying that had accompanied the apparition. The girls' report met with a great response from the residents of Marpingen. On July 5, over a hundred of them visited the place of the apparition in Härtelwald. They kept vigils there and decorated the apparition site with flowers and a cross. Twenty-year-old Margaretha Kunz pointed out in her retraction that, because of this cult that had set in, she “couldn't go back” very soon, that is, she could move away from her report.  Also on July 5th, the first alleged healing occurred. The former miner Nikolaus Recktenwald, who suffered from severe rheumatism, reported a powerful current of power and a feeling of healing after the children allegedly put his hand to the virgin's foot. Two other alleged healings on the same day influenced the opinion in the village about the truthfulness of the apparition. More decisive for the change of opinion, however, was the report by four men, each around 40 years old, and 17 year old Anna Hahn, that they had also seen the virgin. Anna Hahn passed out when she appeared. According to the sources, the men, apparently overwhelmed by awe, reported of a radiant virgin crowned with a diadem , who carried the Christ child in her arms. David Blackbourn calls it one of the most striking features of the Marpingen apparitions of Mary that the apparition did not cause any noticeable division of the village. There were only eight skeptics among the more than 1,600 inhabitants. The repressive measures on the part of the Prussian state rather led to increased cohesion, in which the investigations of strangers were met with a wall of silence. 
Shaping the narrative
Like the other two girls, Margaretha Kunz later revoked her report. It happened under some kind of coercion after the girls were admitted to a home; therefore, it met with little response from supporters of the apparition, especially since the girls later revoked some of their confessions. At the age of twenty, Margaretha Kunz, who was working as a monastery assistant at the time and who entered the monastery as a novice shortly afterwards , once again confirmed that the claims made in the visions were - in her words - "one big lie". Her testimony as a young adult underlines how much the report, under the influence of her fellow citizens, adapted to the prevailing image of an apparition of Mary, which was mainly influenced by the apparitions of Mary in Lourdes.
Susanna Leist's mother had a great influence on the report of the Marpingen children in the first days. On July 3rd, she asked the girls to go into the forest again the next day, pray and ask the apparition who she was. If the figure answered that it was the Immaculate Conception, it would be the Mother of God.  This alludes directly to a crucial point of the Marian apparitions in Lourdes: Bernadette Soubirous was commissioned by the pastor Dominique Peyramale , who doubted the authenticity of her vision, to ask the woman who she was. The apparition answered this question “Que soy era Immaculada Concepcion” (“I am the Immaculate Conception”). Pope Pius IX had that four years earlierDogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary proclaimed. Pastor Peyramale seemed unlikely that Bernadette Soubirous, with her poor education, could have heard of this dogma.
In the case of the Marpinger apparitions, Susanna Leist's mother consciously or unconsciously improved the girls' reports with regard to appearance as well. The blue ribbon - also a detail of the Marian apparitions in Lourdes - was added to the vague description of the children by Susanna Leist's mother before this detail was mentioned by one of the children.  Other aspects of the Marpinger apparitions were suggested to the children by their surroundings. They were asked whether the apparition wore a golden crown and the baby Jesus in her arms, whether she had wanted a chapel to be built and whether the sick were to be brought to the place of the apparitions. Such influences were also influenced by people like Matthias Scheeben, an influential German theologian in the 19th century, in whose work the supernatural character of revealed truths occupies a large space. He happened to be present in Marpingen in September 1876, when the children vaguely reported about a radiant head that had hovered over the Virgin Mary during an apparition. He then showed them a picture of St. Niklaus von Flüe , whereupon the children confirmed that the head looked exactly like that.  After his evaluation of the girls' revocations, Blackbourn points to the great importance that the experience had for the children: 
“If one reads [the early revocations] alongside contemporary accounts of third parties about the behavior of children, they reveal that the experience of the apparitions was anything but trivial and cannot be interpreted as a construct by adults alone. The visionaries were both playful and desperate. They created the image of a better life and enjoyed the intoxication of their novel status, but they were also oppressed by feelings of guilt and tormented by fears. "
The first pilgrims from abroad came to Marpingen at the end of the first week. On July 12th there were already around 20,000 visitors. This stream of pilgrims continued for over fourteen months, although the number of pilgrims fluctuated. As early as August 1876 there were among the pilgrims people who had come from outside the Saarland, and in autumn 1876 the parish priest of Marpingen received letters from Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and the United States. The number of pilgrims was particularly numerous on religious holidays and, among them, especially on the feasts of Mary. Since the children named September 3, 1877 as the day of the last apparition of Mary, the pilgrimages reached their climax in the first three days of September 1877 and then declined very quickly. 
Many contemporary sources emphasize the broad social spectrum of pilgrims. For all layers it was true that the Marpingen apparitions of the Virgin attracted significantly more women than men. A greater participation of women in religious events is a phenomenon that was typical in many European countries from the second half of the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War .  Blackbourn states that the pilgrims came predominantly from the highest and lowest ranks of Catholic society, but that the male bourgeoisie in particular was clearly underrepresented. The many members of the Catholic nobility who met in Marpingen were striking. Among the most prominent were Princess Helene von Thurn und Taxis , who visited Marpingen three times, the Baroness von Louisenthal, several members of the Stolberg family , Countess Maria Anna Ferdinande Countess von Spee and Marie Friederike von Prussia, who converted to Catholicism in 1874 .  The majority of the pilgrims, however, were of humble origin.
The motives of the pilgrims for the pilgrimage to Marpingen were very different. They came as an act of penance, to obtain grace through their presence or because they sought the intercession of the Virgin Mary. For many, the pilgrimage was also associated with the hope of healing for themselves or their relatives, whereby the water of the spring in the Härtelwald was said to have a wonderful effect. Many of the pilgrims therefore carried containers with them to take the water home with them. 
Reactions from the clergy
Catholic priests were urged to view reports of private revelations with skepticism and reluctance before a canonical investigation found them credible. The members of the Catholic clergy who came to Marpingen tended to accept the authenticity of the apparition. Many harassed clergy saw a signal in Marpingen and were ready to accept prison sentences, if this was the price, in order to personally witness the Marpingen events.  Those who were skeptical about the apparition also forbade their parishioners to make a pilgrimage to Marpingen. Jakob Neureuter, the parish pastor of Marpingen, was under particularly great pressure because he lacked the support of the church hierarchy. An official condemnation of the Marpinger apparition on the part of the diocese was omitted, not least because the competent Trier cathedral chapter refused to cooperate with the Prussian state.  Pastor Neureuter found practical support from the pastors in his neighboring parish, who answered letters or recorded the statements of the visionaries and those who had been healed.  Since the Trier cathedral chapter refused to support him, Neureuter asked the Mariologist Matthias Scheebenfor help. He was very quickly convinced of the authenticity of the apparition and also dispelled Neureuter's doubts. During his first interrogation by the Trier regional president Wolff on July 14th, Neureuter used a formula (cf. Acts 5,38 f. EU ), which he later referred to again and again: 
"If it is the work of man, it will fall apart, if it is the work of God, you, Mr. President, will not prevent it."
Jakob Neureuter's formally expressed wish not to pre-empt a canonical investigation through his actions was, however, often thwarted by his own obvious convictions. 
Various details of the apparitions reported by the children made a number of clergymen doubt the truthfulness of the apparition. Pastor Feiten from Fraulautern in the Saarland therefore turned to the Luxembourg Bishop Nicolas Adames , who drew parallels to similar cases in Alsace, which the Church had classified as fraudulent or deceitful, and passed a damning verdict.  In the atmosphere of the months from July 1876 to September 1877, however, clergymen did not even succeed in preventing the apparently dubious imitations of the Marpinger apparitions. Wherever they tried, they were often exposed to hostility from their own parishioners.
After the first reports on the apparitions of Mary on July 3rd, it took several days for the press to become aware of the events in Marpingen.  On July 15, 1876, the Saar- und Mosel-Zeitung congratulated the Prussian government on its resolute action, with which the streams of pilgrims traveling to Marpingen should be stopped, and thus contributed significantly to the widespread awareness of the Marpinger Marian apparitions.  The Catholic press reacted much more hesitantly, but already at the end of July 1876 distributed reports of alleged healings. The reach of the Catholic press, however, was not very large, even the Kölnische Volkszeitung, probably the most widely read Catholic paper, only had a print run of 8,600 copies in the mid-1870s.  Treatises on the apparitions that were driven out by peddlers, on the other hand, had a higher circulation and contributed decisively to the distribution. 
From the autumn of 1876 the Marpinger apparitions of the Virgin Mary took up a relatively large amount of space in the German press. The attacks by the liberal press on Catholic popular piety were repeated , as could be seen in 1844 during the pilgrimages to the Holy Rock . The individual reports in the press made use of a clichéd portrayal of the Catholic masses of the people as "clergy" and intellectually underdeveloped.  The national liberal press saw the event primarily as an ultramontane conspiracy.  With recourse to Rudolf Virchow's concept of psychological epidemics andKrafft-Ebing's studies on “religious madness” described liberal papers such as the Grenzbote in Marpinges apparitions of the Virgin Mary as “religious girl's ghost” that could only be traced back to the girls' imagination and vanity. 
The reports from Marpingen found imitations very quickly. The first were reported from Poznan in July 1876 , where children claimed to have seen an apparition on the road from Czekanow to Lewkow. In the spring of 1877, in the Koblenz area, the alleged apparition of Our Lady in a medicine bottle filled with Marpinger water attracted more than 5,000 pilgrims, although the mayor confiscated the bottle and had a guard hoisted in front of the place of apparition, a mill. The individuals involved in the incident were later prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms after being proven that they had taken money from the pilgrims. 
In at least two cases, children from the Marpingen area climbed into an ecstatic state. In August 1877, after a supposed apparition, a large group of children ran from Münchwies to Marpingen and stormed the parsonage there in order to be able to receive communion . In Berschweiler , children claimed that they had seen the Virgin Mary in Marpingen, who had given them the instruction to save souls from purgatory . On their return home, eleven girls between the ages of nine and seventeen are said to have wrestled in violent convulsions with the devil in front of numerous spectators . 
Measures by the Prussian authorities
Historian David Blackbourn attributes the escalation of the conflict in Marpingen to the behavior of individual officials, who from the outset viewed the Marpingen apparitions as deliberate fraud and serious breach of the peace . While the responsible district administrator reacted very cautiously to the Dietrichswald Marian apparitions in 1877 and tolerated the pilgrimages, even if the place of apparition was cordoned off, as in Marpingen, the responsible representatives of the Prussian authorities reacted in Marpingen with undisguised contempt and hostility towards the Catholic population. Their repressive measures ultimately failed. This was also due to the behavior of small local Catholic officials who, in the conflict between their local loyalty and their duties as Prussian officials, were more willing to accept disciplinary measures or even criminal prosecution than to act as the henchmen of a repressive state power.  They found moral support in the papal encyclical Quod numquam of 1875, which declared the Prussian May Laws null and void and called on German Catholics to passive resistance.
Use of the army
The officials working in the village and the mayor initially avoided informing their superiors about the events in Marpingen. The St. Wendel District Office first learned on July 11th that thousands of pilgrims were on their way to Marpingen. The responsible district administrator Karl Hermann Rumschöttel was on vacation at this time, his deputy was the district secretary Hugo Besser, who traveled to Marpingen for the first time on the morning of July 13th together with the Alsweiler mayor Wilhelm Woytt, a lieutenant and two gendarmes to get a picture of the situation there.  Besser ordered the praying and singing crowd to disperse in the name of the district administrator and with reference to Section 116 of the Reich Penal Code . After this had no effect, he requested the help of the military. The eighty-strong 8th Company of the Rhenish Infantry Regiment No. 4 under Captain Fragstein-Niemsdorff was given the task of clearing the area, evicting non-residents and imposing a curfew. The company arrived at Härtelwald around eight o'clock in the evening, where a large number of people were praying and singing. How many people were actually involved is just as controversial as the detailed process of the evacuation. The mayor of Alsweiler, Wilhelm Woytt, estimated the number of people gathered there at 1,500, the captain at 3,000 to 4,000 people. After a drum roll, the commanding officer again asked the crowd to disperse. When this did not happen, the captain gave the order to plant the bayonetsand ordered two company platoons to advance against the crowd. Sixty civilians were injured by blows with rifle butts and, in a few cases, by bayonet strikes. At the later court hearing, both Captain Fragstein-Niemsdorff and another officer testified under oath that there was no direct resistance from the praying crowd to the eviction.  The bloody incidents did not occur until late in the evening, when about thirty men at the edge of the forest mocked and insulted the soldiers. A sergeant on patrol was attacked, the sergeant fired several shots at the fleeing men, one of which was hit in the arm. 
The subsequent billeting of the soldiers in the village and the requisition of food and fodder for the horses of the regiment proceeded in a similar manner. When the Marpinger mayor Jakob Geßner pointed out to the captain that the village did not have the required oats, the captain grabbed the mayor by the collar and choked him.  For the mariologist Scheeben, this was the reason to complain in an article in the Kölnische Volkszeitung that the army in Marpingen had behaved as if it were in enemy territory.  It was not until July 28 that the company was withdrawn again on the orders of the Supreme Army Command for the Rhine Province. To control the village, additional gendarmes were placed in Marpingen insteadstationed.  These gendarmes were subordinate to the War Ministry and were bound in their daily work to the instructions of the head president or his local representatives, namely the district president and the district administrators .
On July 14th, District President Wolff from Trier arrived in Marpingen, who, together with Hugo Besser and the district physician Brauneck, began the preliminary investigations into the case. After an initial conversation with Pastor Neureuter, he interrogated the three visionary children and two people who claimed to have been healed. The district president, who quickly came to the conclusion that "the instigators of the miracle were only out to deceive the gullible population", essentially pursued the criminal prosecution of the instigators he suspected and the prevention of access to the Härtelwald in order to take the dynamism of the mass movement away. The criminal investigation began on July 16 under the direction of examining magistrate Ernst Remelé and chief procurator Pattberg from Saarbrücken. Hundreds of witnesses were interrogated, including the parents of the three visionaries, Pastor Neureuter and the adult visionaries. The three girls who first reported the apparition were subjected to particularly strict interrogation. Margaretha Kunz later claimed that she had been interrogated a total of twenty-eight times.  The interrogation protocols and the supporting documents are from World War IIlost. What has been preserved is a 500-page summary by the examining magistrate Emil Kleber, which, according to Blackbourn, suggests that the material originally compiled by Ernst Remelé and his colleagues extended to 3,500 pages. 
The interrogations were aimed at discovering the “mechanics of deceit” and revolved around the questions of who had offered the children money, who could have played the role of the Virgin Mary in the forest and who had contributed to making the visions public . On July 16, the homes of the young seers were searched to find evidence of financial benefits from the apparitions. By comparing all Marpingen women between the ages of 25 and 50 and numerous individual interviews, the examining magistrates tried to identify the woman who had set up the cross at the place of the apparition in Härtelwald. Disciplinary measures were also initiated: Pastor Neureuter was appointed school inspectorReleased, the Marpinger teacher André was transferred to Tholey against her will in August 1876 . When in September 1876 there were still no usable results of the preliminary investigations, the Prussian interior minister Friedrich zu Eulenburg commissioned the Berlin detective Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem to investigate undercover in Marpingen in order to uncover the "Marpingen swindle".  He was provided with papers that allowed him to serve as an Irish reporter for the New York Heraldto occur. In Marpingen, among other things, he tried to convince the people of Marpingen that he was on their side by telling the Prussian police. He was then arrested by gendarmes, and it was only through his arrest that the chief procurator Pattberg learned of his presence.  With his exaggerated behavior, the official aroused suspicion among the Marpinger residents early on. His dubious investigation results did not convince the local judicial authorities either, but they initiated a new phase of state action against the alleged ringleaders of the Marpingen apparitions. The offices of the Catholic newspaper Germaniawere searched and 27 documents related to the Marpinger reports were seized. Shortly afterwards there were several house searches of the pastors of Marpingen, Alsweiler, Heusweiler and Urexweiler as well as several Marpinger citizens. The elementary school teacher Nikolaus Bungert from Marpingen, who had been teaching in Marpingen for 36 years, was downgraded under civil service law and transferred on November 1st. Pastor Jakob Neureuter was arrested on October 27, 1876 and brought to Saarbrücken. This was followed by the arrest of the Alsweiler chaplain on October 30thSchneider and on October 31 the arrest of the community forester Karl Altmeyer, the Marpinger field guard Jakob Langendörfer, the four Marpinger men who claimed to have seen the virgin, and Angela Kles'. The latter was suspected of having decorated the cross in Härtelwald with flowers and of collecting money from the pilgrims.  Edmund Prince von Radziwill , at the time vicar in Ostrów Wielkopolskiand one of the Marpinger pilgrims, was fined 20 Marks for insulting Mayor Woytt. Pastor Eich, who described the confiscation of a notebook as "simple-minded" during one of the house searches, received a fine of 30 gold marks for insulting. Numerous clergymen who accompanied their parishioners on the pilgrimage to Marpingen were reported for illegal worship. 
On November 6th, the three eight-year-old girls had to appear before the Guardianship Court in St. Wendel. The justice of the peace found her guilty of threatening public order, of having committed gross mischief and of having obtained an unlawful pecuniary advantage for herself or a third party. As minors, the three girls could not be prosecuted, but the judge found it permissible to put the three girls in a reformatoryto send. This did not take place immediately, but took place three days later, on November 9, 1876. The parents were initially pretended that the children were only to be interrogated again in Marpingen. Only when the children were in the hands of the gendarmerie did the parents learn that the children were to be brought to Saarbrücken. Three parents followed the children to Saarbrücken, whereby the authorities prevented all contact between children and parents. The girls were admitted to the Protestant Prinz Wilhelm and Mariannen Institute, which the parents only found out secretly from a court usher. After the parents tried in vain to find a lawyer in Saarbrücken who would represent them, the parents traveled back to Marpingen the next day. The girls were held in Saarbrücken for five weeks, with the parents being denied any access to their children. 
The judgment of the Guardianship Court of St. Wendel was classified by a number of lawyers as doubtful. In the legal and political aftermath of the Marpinger apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the arbitrary approach to executing the judgment turned out to be one of the main points of attack against the Prussian authorities.
The closure of the Härtelwald
The Härtelwald and adjacent wooded areas were cordoned off extensively by the Prussian authorities in order to prevent further pilgrimages and processions. After the infantry company withdrew, gendarmes were initially responsible for the cordoning off. From February 1877 these were reinforced by a company from the Rhenish Jäger Battalion No. 8 .
The prohibition to enter the Härtelwald and the adjacent forest areas was strictly implemented. Anyone who deviated even slightly from the permitted routes was summoned for forest offenses. Occasionally, there appear to have been incidents in which violations of the law were provoked by both the gendarmerie and members of the hunter battalion. Individual miners were summoned for taking short cuts through the forest on the way to or from their workplaces in the Saarland collieries. Marpinger farmers who had to cross the path to get to their own land were fined. Also collecting leaf litterand forage in the forest, which farmers resorted to in late spring when the stored supplies were running out, were sometimes punished with heavy fines. How many summons there were in total cannot be reconstructed; between August 6 and September 2, 1877 alone, there were a total of 86 reports. 
The closure of the Härtelwald triggered the first legal steps by the population against the military operation and the resulting attacks. Since there was no middle-class class in Marpingen, it was pastor Neureuter, the Mindener Kaplan Dicke, the miller Johann Thomé, the church administrator Fuchs and the Catholic scholar Nikolaus Thoemes, who collected statements from the villagers on site in order to complain to the administration in Trier to judge. This was rejected by the district president, almost at the same time the district president issued an announcement according to which the costs for billeting the army in Marpingen amounted to 4,000 gold marksthrough a local tax increase through the village. The impending tax sparked a number of other complaints. The material that had been gathered was used by both Scheeben and Thoemes to publicize the coercive measures of the state in articles published in various Catholic newspapers.  The reporting intensified as the arrests increased and finally the three underage visionaries were admitted to the Saarbrücken reformatory. The focus of the reporting was no longer the apparitions of Mary, which were doubted anyway by numerous Catholic clergy and lay people, but the measures taken by the Prussian state.
The Marpingers found relatively little support from the party leadership of the Center Party . Ludwig Windthorst's poor health may have contributed to this during this time. It was rather outsiders of the Center Party like Edmund Prince von Radziwill and the publicists Friedrich Dasbach and Paul Majunke who stood up for the Marpingers. Edmund Prince von Radziwill filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry in Berlin to protest against the imprisonment of the children. 
Give in to the state
The first court judgments
As early as November 1876, the government's criminal charges collapsed. On November 17th, the four adult visionaries were released from custody. On November 19, the Saarbrücken Regional Court rejected the decision of the St. Wendel Guardianship Court to admit the children to the Prince Wilhelm and Mariannen Institute. As the government immediately announced its intention to appeal, the girls' release was postponed for another twelve days. On January 30th, the Berlin Upper Tribunal confirmed the decision of the regional court and rejected the state's appeal for appeal. On December 1, 1876 Chaplain Schneider and Pastor Jakob Neureuter were released from prison. On December 20th, the community forester Karl Altmeyer, field warden Jakob Langendorf and Angela Kles were released.
During the negotiations before the Tholey and St. Wendel District Court, numerous pilgrims and people arrested in Härtelwald were either acquitted or sentenced to low fines. It meant an even greater loss of face for the Prussian state when Matthias Scheeben, who had been accused of defamation against the Prussian army, was acquitted on April 14, 1877. The basis of the indictment was Scheeben's article, in which he had expressed that the army in Marpingen had behaved as it did in enemy territory. The Breeding Police Chamber in Cologne came to the conclusion that Scheeben's allegations were essentially true and also found that Captain Fragstein-Niemsdorff and his officers had severely compromised themselves. On the other hand, the mayor of Alsweiler, Wilhelm Woytt, was found guilty on July 7, 1877, of mistreating a Marpinger villager who had asked him for permission to enter the Härtelwald.
The Marpingen case before the Prussian state parliament
Despite the clear court rulings, the responsible administrative authorities, including the provincial government in Koblenz, refused to withdraw the imposed orders. The center politician Julius Bachem , together with three other members of the center, brought a motion signed by 77 parliamentary group members in the Prussian House of Representatives, which called on the government to examine the matter. Among other things, the reimbursement of the tax of 4,000 marks imposed on Marpingen, the lifting of the entry ban for the Härtelwald and disciplinary measures against the officials who had acted improperly and illegally were demanded.  On January 16, a nearly five-hour debate about the Marpingen events took place in the House of Representatives.
The final process
The last trial in connection with the apparitions of Mary began in March 1879. 19 people were charged before the Breeding Police Chamber in Saarbrücken: the parents of the three girls who were still alive, Susanna Leist's sister Margaretha, the clergy Neureuter, Eich, Schneider, Schwaab and Dicke, the publicist Thoemes from Baden, six grown men who claimed to have seen the apparition, the teacher André and the forester Altmeyer. Charges of riot or breach of the peace had been dropped after more than two years of investigation. 17 people were charged with fraud, attempted fraud and aiding and abetting fraud. Pastor Eich and the community forester Altmeyer were accused of violating public order. The defendants were defended by the lawyer Simons from the Breeding Police Court in Saarbrücken and by Julius Bachem, who had already acted as defense counsel in several court cases of the Kulturkampf. The state offered no fewer than 170 witnesses during the two-week trial, while the defense was limited to 26. Despite the abundance of material, the prosecution failed to construct a convincing case. Many of the prosecution witnesses refused to make incriminating testimony and could not or would not remember any details. The court warned numerous witnesses and had a widow from Marpingen arrested in the courtroom on suspicion of perjury , which she commented with the words: "This is the way to heaven for me".
There is no doubt that Marpinger residents benefited materially from the pilgrims. The parents of the three seers had also taken money for the accommodation of guests. With no testimony could it be proven that greed for money was the motive or that medals or the like had already been ordered before the appearance reports. When the Berlin detective was questioned by the defense, it was largely possible to discredit him. Among other things, his first report on Marpingen, in which Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem described the Marpinger citizens as “friendly to the French”, his recommendations to send two of the underage seers to an insane asylum, and his urge to arrest Pastor Neureuter were discussed. It was also discussed that the officer had offered Margaretha Kunz, one of the three underage seers, five marks. Hüllessem only wanted to remember this incident after reading out the relevant passage from an earlier statement and left the defense's question as to whether Margaretha Kunz had actually accepted the money or had rather thrown the money at him, unanswered. This was not cleared up by a further cross-examination either. The two needy, to whom the five marks had been given at the time, did not have to take the stand because the court followed the arguments of the defense. Instead, the presiding judge reported on two letters from the Berlin detective that had been received by the court, in which the latter corrected several points of earlier statements. In it, Meerscheidt-Hüllessem also stated that his conclusion that Margaretha Kunz had taken the five marks was “probably not correct”. Instead, the presiding judge reported on two letters from the Berlin detective that had been received by the court, in which the latter corrected several points of earlier statements. In it, Meerscheidt-Hüllessem also stated that his conclusion that Margaretha Kunz had taken the five marks was “probably not correct”. Instead, the presiding judge reported on two letters from the Berlin detective that had been received by the court, in which the latter corrected several points of earlier statements. In it, Meerscheidt-Hüllessem also stated that his conclusion that Margaretha Kunz had taken the five marks was “probably not correct”.
In his closing argument, chief procurator Pattberg called for imprisonment between one and three years for Magdalena Kunz, mother of one of the seers, for Pastor Neureuter, for Kaplan Dicke, Dr. Thoemes and four of the adult visionaries. The chief procurator justified this with the fact that these people had encouraged the visionaries in their lies even after their withdrawal for reasons of personal enrichment and material advantages for the parish church. The defense against it requested acquittal for all. The court adjourned for three weeks, on April 5, 1879, the judges announced the acquittal of all accused. 
The Catholic press celebrated the acquittals and questioned whether the preliminary investigations had clearly shown that there was a lack of factual evidence for the fraud allegation. A critical commentator estimated the cost of the preliminary investigation and trial at more than 100,000 marks. On April 9, 1879, almost all of the gendarmes stationed in Marpingen were withdrawn; the last two were transferred to another location in November. In May 1879 the community forester Altmeyer, who had been suspended from duty, was reinstated in his office with full reimbursement of his salary. In 1880 the military weekly reportedthat several officers of the 4th Rhenish Infantry Regiment in Saarlouis, to which the company stationed in Marpingen in 1876 belonged, were put up for retirement on March 2, 1880. In addition to Colonel Wilhelm von Schon , the commander of the 4th Rhenish Infantry Regiment, this also included Captain Fragstein-Niemsdorff. 
The reaction of the Roman Catholic Church
The Council of Trent had already determined in the 16th century that a private revelation was to be followed by a canonical investigation. In the case of the Marpinger apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the initiation of such an investigation was delayed because the leadership of the diocese had been driven underground as a result of the Kulturkampf. In the absence of a bishop or a vicar general , the diocese was governed by three secret apostolic delegates , but their strength was largely tied up by the problems raised by the Kulturkampf. A positive judgment of the church about the Marpinger apparition of the Virgin Mary would have caused political tensions between the diocese and the government of the 1870sRhine province tightened. 
The three girls were admitted to the convent of the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus in Echternach in Luxembourg in May 1878 . This congregation , founded by Clara Fey in 1844 , was primarily dedicated to caring for young women. Johannes Theodor Laurent , the spiritual director of the order and titular bishop of Chersonese, was a respected Mariologist.  Laurent, who lived in the motherhouse of the sisters of the poor child Jesus in Simpelveld, the Netherlandswas unable to conduct a canonical investigation because he did not have all the documents. Instead, he dealt solely with a 49-page statement by the girls, which had been recorded in November 1878 by a nun commissioned by Pastor Neureuter, and examined this for its internal conclusiveness.
In his statement written in May 1880, Johannes Theodor Laurent came to the conclusion that the apparitions described by the children were unworthy of the Mother of God. This included the “ghost-like following” after the children, their appearance in kitchens and barns after the Härtelwald had been closed, and the frequent change of the type of their clothing. In the words the apparition was supposed to have used, he saw only an imitation of the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, some of the conversations Laurent called "indecent and unreasonable", and others, in his opinion, were about trivialities. Laurent also missed a touch and penetration from the girls' experience. In his opinion, the reported healings had not been adequately investigated, Johannes Theodor Laurent became clearer with regard to aspects of the apparitions that alluded to episodes of the Gospels: 
"If this outrageous playing with the highest secrets of religion does not convince you that the whole apparition with everything that depends on it was nothing but a hell of a juggling, you must have lost all Christian feeling and understanding."
The central starting point for Laurent's devastating judgment was the appearance of the devil, reported by the girls, accompanied by Our Lady, which had already given all clergymen who were interested in the Marpinger apparitions a headache. For Laurent it was the indication of the "diabolical character and origin" of the apparitions. 
At the time of Bishop Laurent's statement, Trier had no diocesan bishop who could arrange for a complete processing of the events or who could have pointed out the doubtfulness of the same to the Catholics of his diocese via a pastoral letter. In Trier it was decided to keep Laurent's statement under lock and key. That did not change either when Michael Felix Korum was appointed the new Bishop of Trier in September 1881 . 
The three seers
None of the three original seers reached old age. Susanna Leist, who fell ill while she was in hospital, was brought back to Marpingen and died there in 1882 at the age of 14.  Katharina Hubertus, who was given the name Hugolina when she was dressed, stayed with the sisters of the poor child Jesus, but moved to the mother house. Her older sister, who had received the religious name Irenäa, also lived there. Sr. Hugolina took her religious vows in June 1897 and died on December 24, 1904 in Aachen. 
Margaretha Kunz, the youngest of the three girls, lived in the monastery in Echternach until 1885. She left it to become a housemaid for a pastor in Munster, where one of her older sisters was a novice with the Clement sisters . In Münster, Margaretha Kunz first confessed to a priest at Easter confession in 1887 that she had lied about the apparition. After a few months later she also confided in the housekeeper of the pastor for whom she worked, Pastor Neureuter learned of her confession. At his request, Margaretha Kunz went to the St. Joseph Monastery in today's Toruń in February 1888where she worked as a maid under the name Maria Althof. There she wrote a comprehensive handwritten confession in January 1889, which begins with the words: 
"I am one of the three children who almost thirteen years ago in Marpingen spread the rumor that I saw the Mother of God and unfortunately I have to make the deeply humiliating admission that everything without exception was one big lie"
The confession, in which Margaretha Kunz also reports on her confession in Münster, was confirmed by one of the sisters of the monastery and passed on to Bishop Korum in Trier. After her confession, Margaretha Kunz entered the novitiate of the Poor Clares and was given the name Maria Stanislaus to dress. It is certain that Bishop Korum had Margaretha Kunz and Katharina Hubertus come to Trier. Apparently no further investigation took place. Only in later writings are there references to a conversation between Bishop Korum and Pastor Neureuter's successor in 1905, in which Korum informed the pastor that both nuns had come to the conclusion that they had succumbed to a deception at the time. Only fragments are known about the further life of Margaretha Kunz, but these indicate that she did not keep the silence imposed on her about the apparitions and that she confirmed her belief in their authenticity to other sisters. It is certain that she left the Poor Clare monastery. She was accepted by the Sisters of Divine Providence , to whom she belonged as Sr. Olympia for 15 years. She died in September 1905 in their branch in Steyl, the Netherlands . 
The Marpingen place of prayer
With the end of the Kulturkampf, the relationship between the German Empire and the Roman Catholic Church relaxed increasingly. At that time, the apparitions of Mary in Marpingen had long since lost their political explosiveness. In 1932 a chapel association was founded in Marpingen which, with the help of loans and donations as well as unpaid work, set about building the chapel desired by the people of Marpingen at the place of apparition. This was significantly promoted by the Marpinger building contractor Heinrich Recktenwald , who thereby fulfilled a vow he had taken during the First World War .  In 1934, Friedrich Ritter von Lama publisheda book with the title The Madonna's Apparitions in Marpingen , whose lack of recognition he called a "victim of the Kulturkampf". The widespread book has been reprinted several times.  In the 1950s, a collecting basin was created at the source in the Härtelwald and in the 1970s the steep ascent to the source was expanded into a crossroad with station pictures. The chapel association maintained this facility and temporarily maintained a pilgrimage home for foreign visitors. The pilgrims came not only from the local area, but also from France, Switzerland, Austria, England, the United States and Canada. 
- David Blackbourn: Marpingen - the German Lourdes in the Bismarck period ; Historical contributions from the Saarbrücken State Archives, Volume 6; Saarbrücken 2007; ISBN 978-3-9808556-8-6
- David Blackbourn: "The girls most favored by God" - Marian apparitions in the Bismarckian Empire . In: Irmtraud Götz von Olenhusen (Ed.): Wonderful apparitions. Women and Catholic Piety in the 19th and 20th Centuries . Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 1995, pp. 171-201. ISBN 3-506-76178-1 . digital-sammlungen.de
- Paul Burgard: Girls make history and Our Lady gets a museum . In: Saar stories , magazine on regional culture and history, historical association for the Saar region e. V. (Ed.), 2 (2016), Issue 43, pp. 15-23.
- Michael B. Gross: The War against Catholicism – Liberalism and the Anti-Catholic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Germany. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2007, ISBN 0-472-11383-6
- Klaus-Michael Mallmann: Ultramontanism and the labor movement in the German Empire, considerations using the example of the Saar district . In: Wilfried Loth (Ed.): German Catholicism in transition to the modern age (denomination and society, 3). Stuttgart 1991, pp. 76-94.
- Gabriele Oberhauser: Pilgrimages and places of worship in Saarland - from source worship to the apparition of Mary . Saarbrücker Druckerei und Verlag, Saarbrücken 1992, ISBN 3-925036-67-9
- Martin Persch , Bernhard Schneider (ed.): On the way to modernity - History of the Diocese of Trier , Volume 4. Paulinus Verlag, Trier 2002, ISBN 3-7902-0274-6
- AL: At the Marpingen sanctuary . In: The Gazebo . Issue 40, 1877, pp. 666-669 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Jakob Frohschammer : The credibility of the miraculous healings in Lourdes and Marpingen . In: The Gazebo . Issue 10, 1878, pp. 164–167 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- Fridolin Hoffmann: Marpingen - how miracles arise and pass away . In: The Gazebo . Issue 16, 17, 1879, pp. 266-268, 284-287 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
- The Virgin of Marpingen . In: Der Spiegel . No. 37 , 1999 ( online - via reprint reports).
- Michael Tunger: Marpingen - "German Lourdes"? The Saarland place of appearance from a historical point of view and the church veneration of Mary , in: Theologisches 35 (2/2005), Sp. 103-110.
- Webpage of the Marienverehrungsstätte Härtelwald , the webpage does not contain any references to the events in the years 1876 and 1877
- Blackbourn, S. 83, 93
- Hugh McLeod: Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848–1914; European Studies Series; New York 2000; ISBN 0-312-23511-9; S. 210
- Oberhauser, S. 168
- Blackbourn, S. 128
- Blackbourn, S. 129
- Blackbourn, S. 133
- Blackbourn, S. 139
- Barbara Daentler: Marpingen . In: Remigius Bäumer, Leo Scheffczyk (ed.): Marienlexikon , ed. on behalf of the Institutum Marianum Regensburg e. V. St. Ottilien 1992, Volume 4, p. 355.
- Blackbourn, S. 140
- Blackbourn, S. 141–143
- Blackbourn, S. 147
- Oberhauser, S. 166
- Blackbourn, S. 153
- Blackbourn, S. 165
- Blackbourn, S. 166f.
- Blackbourn, S. 167
- Blackbourn, S. 174–179
- Blackbourn, S. 154
- Blackbourn, S. 150–153
- Blackbourn, S. 152
- Blackbourn, S. 155
- Blackbourn, S. 156
- Blackbourn, S. 180–182
- Hugh McLeod: Secularisation in Western Europe, 1848–1914; European Studies Series; New York 2000; ISBN 0-312-23511-9; S. 126 4.
- Blackbourn, S. 188
- Blackbourn, S. 193, 198
- Blackbourn, S. 239.
- Blackbourn, S. 235 f.
- Blackbourn, S. 241.
- Blackbourn, S. 238.
- Blackbourn, S. 257.
- Blackbourn, S. 265
- Blackbourn, S. 244
- Blackbourn, S. 248–249
- Blackbourn, S. 182
- Blackbourn, S. 183f.
- Blackbourn, S. 185
- Gross, S. 228–230
- Blackbourn, S. 330f.
- Gross, S. 229
- Blackbourn, S. 245
- Blackbourn, S. 247
- Blackbourn, S. 298f., 304
- Blackbourn, S. 309
- Oberhauser, S. 166–167
- Blackbourn, S. 271f.
- Blackbourn, S. 272
- Blackbourn, S. 272f.
- Blackbourn, S. 310
- Blackbourn, S. 274
- Blackbourn, S. 276
- Blackbourn, S. 285
- Public announcement of July 15, 1876, quoted from David Blackbourn, p. 277
- Blackbourn, S. 277f.
- Blackbourn, S. 278
- Oberhauser, S. 167
- Blackbourn, S. The 278f.
- Blackbourn, S. 281f.
- Blackbourn, S. 292f.
- Blackbourn, S. 283–285
- Blackbourn, S. 287f., 290
- Blackbourn, S. 320–322
- Blackbourn, S. 323–327
- Blackbourn, S. 355
- Blackbourn, p. 356 and p. 358
- Blackbourn, S. 361
- Blackbourn, S. 378
- Quote from Blackbourn, p. 381. For the number of witnesses see p. 387 f.
- Blackbourn, S. 388
- Blackbourn, S. 391
- Blackbourn, S. 391–393
- Blackbourn, S. 393
- Blackbourn, S. 395, 400
- Blackbourn, S. 404
- Blackbourn, S. 406–408
- Blackbourn, S. 409
- Blackbourn, S. 411–419
- Blackbourn, S. 411
- Blackbourn, S. 412
- cited after Blackbourn, p. 113
- Blackbourn, S. 413–416
- Blackbourn, S. 412, 417 f.
- Oberhauser, S. 169
- Oberhauser, S. 170