The Shrine of the Mother of God of Bistrica is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Croatia. It's set in the idyllic little town of Marija Bistrica amid the rolling hills of Zagorje, around 40km from Zagreb. The pilgrimages traditionally take place on about 50 dates from the first Sunday following Easter until the end of October, bringing more than one million visitors per year to the town. The site became revered thanks to a miraculous black wooden statue of the Madonna and Child. This is now kept in Marija Bistrica's magnificent church, although it started out life at the end of the 15th century in a chapel on a nearby hill called Vinski Vrh. Due to the threat of invading armies, this statue was hidden on several occasions, and sometimes it was forgotten. In 1684 it revealed its presence by emitting a curious light. Marija Bistrica became a place of pilgrimage in 1715.
Pope John Paul II visited Marija Bistrica on 3 October 1998. A list of dates of pilgrimages is published (in Croatian only) on www.svetiste-mbb.hr.