Sanctuario of Madonna di Montalto

The Santuario di Montalto is a church located in the upper part of Messina and dedicated to the Madonna delle Vittorie (Our Lady of Victories). The present building was constructed in 1928 on the site of a 13th-century church that was destroyed in the 1908 earthquake. The establishment of this church is linked to a legend that can be found in one of Messina Cathedral’s Bell Tower scenes, which can be seen every day at midday.

History of the Sanctuario di Montalto

On the site of the present-day Santuario di Montalto, there was previously a church and monastery, both destroyed in the 1908 earthquake. This part of the city is known as both ‘Colle della Caperrina’ and ‘Campidoglio di Messina’. In 1282, the people of Messina battled for a long time to resist the siege of the Angevins. This battle is linked to a legend. It is said, in fact, that the Madonna appeared in the guise of a White Lady during the battle. The Virgin deflected the enemy’s arrows with her hands and made the city invisible by covering the walls with her dress. However, another legend takes us back to 1294. In that year, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to a monk named Nicholas in a dream with a special request. The next day, he was to meet the city authorities on the Colle della Caperrina (Caperrina Hill). At midday on the dot, a dove would fly around the boundary of a church to be built in her honour. In 1295, the church was completed and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Montalto. The 1908 earthquake completely destroyed this church and the adjoining monastery that had been built in 1389. The Santuario di Montalto would be built on these very sites.

Architecture of the Sanctuario

The current layout of the Santuario di Montalto is the result of a two-stage reconstruction. The first building was constructed in 1911 following anti-earthquake guidelines, with the apse facing east and the entrance facing west. In 1928, the apse was demolished to build the two bell towers and the chancel, and the façade was demolished to add the transept. Externally, the church is eclectic in style with hints of Gothic and Romanesque influences. Inside, there are several works of art, including a 14th-century wooden panel, a silver Manta chiselled by Filippo Juvarra, a 15th-century wooden crucifix and two late 18th-century marble holy water fonts. The spot where the Santuario di Montalto is located is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city and allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of the Strait of Messina.

Interesting fact: In 1929, the Colbacchini company of Padua made the Sanctuary’s 25 bells using bronze from cannons captured during the First World War.

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