On old pictures I saw there was a church in Smakt but this one was completely ruined during world war II (thanks Olaf_S for this detail). There is however a new church besides the monastry, but I can hardly say that it is such beautiful building. Size did matter however, as the pelgrims kept on coming in larger amounts each year. Anyway, I want to be complete and religious travellers can see it as a "must see".
Northern Limburg is definately not the most visited part of The Netherlands, if it is about foreign tourists I even think you can say that no-one ever gets there (accept for the pelgrims then). The environment of Smakt invites for nice bikingtours or walks through the few (small) forests that you can find in the neighborhood. Little rivers wind through the landscape that often is filled with agricultural fields and acres.
Behind the chapel there a monastry in which the inhabitants follow the teachings of Elia. They are called Karmelites. Karmel is a mountain in the Middle East, where the profet Elia went to after he saw the light of God Almighty. Only much later he got believers that followed many of his principles and the wonderful thing is that Elia is actually the basis of the name we gave our son: Ilja. So Smakt doesn;t only offer me the chapel of the patriot saint of fathers, it also is warmly connected to his name.
In a pelgrims place there should be a inn to shelter and feed the travelling believers. Next to the chapel there is one that has a simple but complete menu for all those who want to eat or drink something after reaching their goal on this pelgrimage.
Smakt is the number one pelgrimage place in The Netherlands. It's small Saint Josef's chapel draws every year 50.000 to 60.000 believers to this little place. They get here by various ways, but these modern times obviously also allow them also to come by car, as the little village has reckoned with it by making many parkingplaces across the road where the chapel is.
Limburg can easily be called the most religious province in The Netherlands. The majority of the people here is Roman Catholic and has some way or another a warm connection with the church. This is also visible in the landscape, where large crosses and small chapels are scattered throughout the fields, roads, forests, villages and acres.
Not many maps will show you where Smakt is, but roughly it is situated between Venray and Venlo in the Northern part of the province of Limburg. Exit the freeway at Overloon and Vierlingsbeek, follow the road to the right and then watch for signs of the restaarant "Pelgrimshuis". After a few kilometres you will be in Smakt.
Fondest memory: The feeling that overwhelmed me standing in front of Saint Josef and thinking of Ilja.