Italy Santuario della Madonna di San Luca

26 images 1 contributors Shoot with care

Sue Wolfe

Shoot with care
This is an active church so dress appropriately and be respectful of worshippers.

About this spot
Southwest of Bologna, on Colle della Guardia overlooking the Apennines, is the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. It is a destination for pilgrims who revere the icon of the Virgin and Child known as di San Luca. The painting, attributed to Luke the Evangelist, was carried up the mountain by the Greek pilgrim Theokoles. The icon was eventually entrusted to Angelica Bonfantini who decided to live as a hermit on Monte della Guardia. She gave the land she owned in exchange for help in building the church and food for the rectory (1192). It should be noted there are several versions of how the icon made its way to Bologna.

The “Miracle of the Rain” is associated with this icon. In 1433, an extremely rainy season threated to ruin the crops. The Jurisconsult asked for the Madonna and Child to be brought into the city to the Council of Elders. As the icon entered the city the rain stopped. A three-day celebration followed. The procession has been repeated every year since, except for 1849 during Austrian occupation and in 1944 during WWII. The celebrations begin the Saturday preceding the fifth Sunday after Easter. After spending a week in the city, the image is returned via the portico of San Luca.

The sanctuary was enlarged over the years with major renovations occurring in 1481, 1603, and 1708. The current Baroque-styled oval building began in 1723 and was completed in 1748. On March 25, 1765, the cardinal archbishop Vincenzo Malvezzi inaugurated the new sanctuary. The frescoes in the dome were not added until 1918 by the Florentine painter Giuseppe Cassioli. The basilica has a Greek cross plan and the presbytery, where the Madonna is kept, is raised.

The Sanctuary of San Luca was declared a national monument in 1874.

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