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Miracles & Madonnas in Italia:

July 2017

The most impressive Madonna I visited in Italy was in a small village called Ivrea in the Piedmont Region of the Italian Alps (situated between Milan and Turin, near the border of Switzerland and Italy).

The story of the Madonna of Ivrea goes back to 1859, when a family in Northern Italy needed money. To remedy the situation, they sold some of their furniture, including a picture of the Virgin Mary painted on wood. The new owners of the painting decided they no longer wanted the painting.  So, they tried to break it with an ax. It would not break. So, they threw the piece of wood into a fire. It would not burn. While the edges burned delicately around the image (see photo below), the painting of the Virgin Mary would not burn. Determined at this point, the owners doused the painting in alcohol and set it afire. Once again, the Madonna would not burn.

The Miraculous Madonna of Ivrea 
(Madonna on Wood Preserved When Twice-Burned and Once-Hatcheted!):

Frightened by this series of miracles,  the new owners of the Madonna went to their priest. He counselled them to give the painting to "someone who could pray for them." They gave the painting to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ivrea (in the Italian Alps near the Italo-Swiss border), where it remains to this day. 

When we visited the church that houses the Madonna of Ivrea, also known as the "Madonna of Miracles," there were about a dozen nuns praying at the foot of the image. As the vibrations of their prayers filled the church, the air was so still and quiet, and charged with the power of their devout prayers, I thought it may have been one of the holiest places I'd visited in Italy.

We prayed and meditated along with the nuns, and I experienced a stillness and peace equal to that of any of my deepest meditations. To me, this was a priceless gift that I will forever refer back to if I'm struggling with restlessness in meditation. In sitting with these nuns I had the impression they were so immersed in prayer that they were barely breathing, or had even entered a breathless state. It demonstrated to me the power of devotion and of loving concentration on a single point.

Another awe-inspriring Madonna is found at the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (named for Saint Luke the Evangelist), on a high hill in Bologna, in northeastern Italy. This Madonna is said to have performed the "miracle of the rain." In the 15th century, torrential rains threatened to destroy the crops in this northeastern Italian town. The townspeople decided to form a procession with the Madonna of San Luca (see photo below), which is said to have been painted by the apostle Luke. It was brought to Bologna from a basilica in Constantinople in the 1100s.  As soon as the procession began, the rain stopped. And every year, to this day, a procession is held to honor the Madonna of San Luca. Locals told us that it will rain just a little at the time of the procession and then the sun will return.

Madonna of San Luca in Bologna, Italy
(Painted by Luke the Evangelist):


Another impressive site of miracles is at the Sanctuary of Oropa in the Italian Alps, which is dedicated to the Black Madonna of Oropa. (see photo below) 

What was so impressive to me was the hall near the sanctuary that was filled from floor to ceiling with testimonials of people who had prayed to the Black Madonna of Oropa and had experienced miraculous healings or had been spared from perilous circumstances. As far as the eye could see, there were letters, drawings, and photos of people who described recovering from terminal illnesses, falling from a roof or other high place without harm, surviving normally fatal car crashes, finding lost children, or thieves returning stolen goods.

It proved to me that the power of prayer and faith can manifest miracles! 

Black Madonna of Oropa (Piedmont Region of Italian Alps)
Miraculous Healings:


Another awe-inspiring Madonna can be found in Livorno, Italy, on the West Coast of Italy, near the Ligurian Sea 
Madonna of Montenero in Livorno, Italy:

Prayers to the Madonna of Montenero have brought about many miracles, attested to through the many cards and letters displayed in a hall similar to the one at the Sanctuary of Oropa (No wonder Italians have a fervent belief in the power of miracles. By the abundance of letters attesting to miracles everyday people have experienced, one assumes that miracles are quite commonplace!)  The only difference between the "hall of miracles" at the Sanctuary of Montenero in Livorno, and the Sanctuary of Oropo in the Italian Alps, is that the testimonials of miracles at Montenero not only cover floor to ceiling of one hallway, but also go up a staircase to a second floor!

Through the intercession of the Madonna of Montenero, tradition holds that the city was saved from an earthquake in the 15th century. A miraculous wind also saved the city from an invasion by the Roman Emperor Maximillian I in the late 15th century. And the city was spared from a plague in 1720. The Madonna also is credited with saving a sinking ship off the coast in 1750.

The story of this last Madonna is quite interesting. It was painted on a stucco wall on the outside of a home, which was the custom at the time, in Trevi, Italy (near Rome). Several years after it was painted, local villagers noticed that tears were flowing from the eyes of the Madonna. They appeared to be tears of blood. People flocked from far and wide to witness this miracle. Again, many documented miracles occurred to those who prayed to the image. 

The image of the Madonna was eventually cut from the side of the house to preserve it from the elements and placed in a larger church in Trevi, Italy.  (see photo below)

Madonna of Tears
Madonna that Shed Tears of Blood in 1485 (was painted on the side of a home in Trevi, Italy):

These stories are just a few of the hundreds of sites of devotion and miraculous events you can witness throughout Italy. These events deeply moved me with the energy of so many people's faith and devotion.

It also was so awe-inspiring to witness not only the site of miraculous events, but the ubiquitous religious art throughout Italia attesting to these miracles. I was continually struck by the thought that many, many people had taken the time and energy, many centuries ago, to construct relatively permanent testaments to their love of the divine. And they placed it in virtually every empty space, even on the side of a house, as evidenced by the miraculous painting above.

I found myself asking myself--and others--how could these elaborate churches, made of heavy stone and marble, have been constructed in the 1300s, 1400s, and 1500s, when they had no machines or even sophisticated tools. Further, these magnificent edifices are filled with large and heavy pieces of ceramic artwork that remains completely intact more than 500 years later.
Here are a few examples of the heavy ceramic pieces crafted by Andrea della Robbia more than 500 years ago, and found not only in churches, but on the outside of buildings throughout Italy, especially in Florence:

The answer I routinely got from the Italian "experts" was that divine intervention had made these works of art and architecture possible. The other answer I got was: "Why do you Americans build your homes of wood when it breaks down so quickly? Why don't you make your homes of stone, like we do?" There may be something to that, as homes in Italy that date back to the 1200s are still in active use!







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