Benvenuti / Welcome to
Benvenuti / Welcome to
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As the population of Lenola grew a new section of town was built on an adjacent hill. Accordingly it was named “Terra Nova”. From Piazza Cavour a staircase leads all the way up to the new part of the town and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Colle. This is known as the “Scalinata della Pace” or the “Steps of Peace”, and is beautifully decorated with mosaics.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Colle
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajanus Decius believers in Christianity suffered much persecution and many became martyrs. It is said that two priests named Onorio and Livio used an isolated cave to set up an altar and a picture of the Madonna and Child. Here they could pray and celebrate their Christian faith. However it seems that they were discovered by the Romans, were slaughtered and their bodies abandoned without burial. In this vicinity, many years later, an inscription was found over the entrance to a cave closed by a stone: "Here lies Onorio and Livio and others, who died for their faith at the hands of Decio."
Legend has it that one evening of September 1602, a local strong young man of normally good character, by the name of Gabriele Mattei, found himself being severely scolded by an old man. Gabriele felt the accusations were unjust and he was so outraged that he joined up with his friends and talked of doing away with the old man.
However, soon the youth regretted his evil thoughts and in order to distract himself from his troubles he wandered through the village, finding his favourite isolated spots to sing to himself and play the guitar. But his unease only increased and in a moment of fury he cast aside his beloved guitar and swore to the devil. Suddenly, a dreadful vision appeared before him causing him to quake with fear and fall to the ground. In spite of his terror, Gabriele had the presence of mind to remember that he was a Christian and he instinctively blessed himself with the sign of the cross.
He called upon the Madonna, whilst trying to evade the pit of fire and the infernal vision disappeared. Gabriele sought to flee from that spot, but was halted by a light in which was revealed the Virgin Mary. She beckoned him to climb the hill in search of her image.
Gabriele persuaded his friends to climb the hill. The terrain was rocky and inhospitable, but finally they made out a picture of the Madonna with Child painted on a rock.
From then on this spot was known as a place of miracles and people came to worship the image of the Madonna. Gabriele changed his name to Fra Deo Gratia (which translates as “Thanks be to God”) and made pilgrimages to Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
The Sanctuary in Lenola soon became a holy destination for many pilgrims. It was decided to construct a church to commemorate the site and that it was to be named La Madonna del Colle, or the Madonna of the Hill.
For the inauguration ceremony of the Sanctuary in 1628, the facade of the church was adorned with garlands of laurel and cypress. After the festivities it was found that two of the cypress branches had stubbornly taken root in the stone ledges. It seems that even after almost four centuries a cypress still continues to cling on, having somehow survived years of inclement weather, drought, and even the bombing of 1944 which damaged the building and caused a fire which scorched the branches.
The interior of the Sanctuary is lavishly decorated with marble, elaborate Baroque carvings and stucco work. On the ceiling is a painting depicting the vision of the Madonna to Gabriele Mattei. The altar houses the sacred effigy of the Madonna and Child.