Rebuilding of the church

After the Catholics regained their land in 1622, Jonas Smolka – Kazakevičius became the pastor.

Around the year 1623-1624 a small wooden church was built and Šilinės Feast was again celebrated.

Catholics had to put a lot of effort to regain the entire expropriated church treasury, also the Reformation movement was quite strong in Lithuania at the time, so it was not expected for a small church to fill up fast.

According to the author of the first history of Šiluva, can. M. Svietkauskas, people started flooding the celebration of Virgin Mary. A lot of people came to the revived festivities, in 1629, 11 thousand communicants were given out during the days of festivities.

Therefore, next year Kazakevičius started building a new church. It was wooden, just as the first one, yet bigger and more splendid, in the style of cross churches popular at the time. This style or form was usual in the restoration period. The church was finished in 1641.

Building of the brick church

In the middle of the 18th century Šiluva had two well known festivities – the Birth of Mary, celebrated on the 8th of September, and the Visitation, celebrated on 2nd of July. Festivities of the Visitation are also famously celebrated in Žemaičių Kalvarija. Bishop Antanas Tiškevičius in his letter to Rome mentions that during these festivities people came to Šiluva to pray not only from the surrounding areas, but from Samogitia and Vilnius as well as from surrounding dioceses.

So in 1760 the process of building the brick church of Šiluva began.

On October 22nd, 1774, Bishop Jonas Lopacinskis rejected the request to allow the coronation of the painting of Mary and the Child, which had long been known by its special grace and miracles.

In 1775 it was allowed, but the crowning was pushed back to 1786, probably expecting to consecrate the new church at the same time. Also after getting the permission from the Pope Pius VI, the festivities were prolonged to take up the whole week in September – from 8th to 15th.

In the same year the Pope Pius VI gave the church of Šiluva a title of an infulatory repository. So from then on the pastors of Šiluva were allowed to wear a mitre, a ring, use a pastoral and other insignias of a bishop.

On September 8th, 1786, a new brick church was consecrated and it still stands today – The Basilica of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was consecrated by Tadas Juozapas Bukota.

The crowning of the painting

The festivities of the crowning of the painting of Mary and the Child started on September 8th, 1786, and lasted three days. About 30 thousand people were in attendance; among them were three senators, a lot of nobles, and people of high posts in the Polish government. According to some sources, there were five bishops, according to others – twelve.

The painting was crowned by a Samogitian bishop, duke Steponas Jonas Giedraitis. In his letter written for the occasion he joyfully wrote: Salutate Mariam, quae multum laboravit in vobis (Congratulate Mary, she has done so much for you).

Seems that the faithful responded to his letter. None of the occupying governments could stop the faitful from going to the festivities.

It was not the festivities that attracted people, but the ever spreading message of Mary’s Apparition and the miraculous painting of Mary and the Child.

Processions

Since the 17th century the faithful used to go to Šiluva not by themselves, but in groups, in processions. In the Jesuit letter to their general in Rome from 1677 it is written about the pupils of Kražiai College and their tradition to organize a pilgrimage to Šiluva every year. The Jesuit College in Kražiai had chosen Mary of Šiluva as their patron. So at the end of the school year the pupils travelled to Šiluva to thank the Mother of God.

The faithful going on organized trips to Šiluva prayed, sang hymns, carried a cross, church flags and small altars, were banging drums and played pipes. Usually such trips were led by a parish priest dressed in liturgical clothing. Such trips are already mentioned by Šiluva’s pastor J. Skirmantas in the 17th century.

Bishops Merkelis Giedraitis and Merkelis Geišas encouraged the faithful to go on such trips. For there not to be a crowding of many processions at one time, in 1722 Bishop Antanas Tiškevičius set certain days and the way of travelling for parishes. People willingly obeyed to the bishops, because they not only prayed during the travel, but also saw a lot of beautiful views. Even hired laborers would ask for some free days while negotiating their work only to travel to famous festivities.

After 1866, when the festivities were attended by a Samogitian Bishop M. Paliulionis, 40 priests and 40 thousand faithful and the centenary of the crowning of the painting was commemorated, the occupying czarist government banned all processions to Šiluva and this ban lasted until 1905.

The first organized parish processions resumed in 1906. They attracted 50 thousand people.