March 30

Madonna della Rocca, Alessandria della Rocca, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

The story goes that in 1620 the Madonna appeared to a blind young woman of Alessandria, granted her sight, and asked her to work on having a church built for the veneration of a statue that would be found hidden in the rocks of a hill. Convinced by the miracle of healing, the people of Alessandria dug in the spot the Madonna had indicated and found a beautiful statue, two feet tall, of white Parian marble finely worked, which they judged to be Greek art of the 400s, hidden during Saracen incursions later in that century. (But Sicily was under the Goths in the 400s and under the Byzantine Greeks from 535-827, when it fell to the Arabs, who had it until the Norman conquest in 1061. In 1282, the Spanish took over, more or less until Garibaldi overthrew them in 1860. So, if the statue were Greek, it could have been made and hidden in the 800s, but its style is more of the 1200s.) A church was built to house the statue, and the first Hermits of St. Anthony Abbot promoted its cult, but the Barresi and Napoli, lords of the place, claimed ownership of the statue found on their lands and moved it to Palermo. In 1820, with the agreement of the people, the Hermits built a beautiful sanctuary, to which the statue returned with solemn festivity on March 30, 1873. In 1939, at the close of the Marian Eucharistic Congress, the holy image was crowned and, in 1956, a new temple was consecrated. (Information from www.santuari.it. Picture from www.alessandriadellarocca.it.)   
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly