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Sanctuary of S. Mary of Galloro


Sanctuary of S. Mary of Galloro


The Sanctuary of the Madonna of Galloro and its monastery, home to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, can be found along Via Appia Nuova, past the hamlet of Galloro.

The worship of the Madonna of Galloro or "Madonna of Grace" started with the discovery in 1623 of a sacred image depicting the Virgin and Child, painted on a boulder of peperino stone in the valley of Galloro, between Monte Cucco and Colle Pardo.

As popular devotion started growing after a series of miracles, Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1621–44) decided to dignify the sacred image with the construction of a Sanctuary, which lasted from 1624 to 1633. In 1631 the Savellis, lords of Ariccia at the time, issued concessions to the Benedictine monks of the Vallombrosa congregation for the construction of a monastery next to the sanctuary. The monastery was built between 1632 and 1634 according to a design by Brother Michele of Bergamo.

During the papacy of Alexander VII Chigi (1655–67), architect Lorenzo Bernini, who was responsible for the whole renovation of the city of Ariccia, was entrusted with redesigning the Church, with the help of Mattia de Rossi. Bernini restored the two chapels dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Thomas of Villanova and designed the dynamic and monumental facade, decorated with pilasters on high plinths, Ionic and Corinthian capitals, and the papal crest at the top of the tympanum.

The structure of the building is a Latin cross floor plan with the navy covered with a barrel vault, three lateral chapels on each side, a dome over the transept and a tribune.

After Bernini’s restoration, the interiors of the Church remained completely white. It was only between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century that the Vallombrosians first and the Jesuits later decided to decorate the vault, the dome and the presbytery.

The first chapel on the right hosts an altar piece by Guillaume Courtois called il Borgognone (the Burgundian), depicting Saint Francis of Sales delivering a sermon to the people of Switzerland, while the one on the left hosts the painting of Saint Thomas of Villanova healing a disabled person by Giacinto Gimignani, both dating to 1663. The temple-styled altar in the presbytery is attributed to Bernini himself.

Pope Alexander VII also instituted the traditional procession of the “Signorina” (the young lady), an event that still takes place every year on December 8th, the day of the Immaculate Conception. A girl chosen among the teenagers of the area (once selected instead from the unmarried women wishing for a good marriage and who financed the celebrations), is the protagonist of the two processions that take place in the morning and in the evening. At the end of the celebration, the "Miss" symbolically offers the image of the Madonna of Galloro to the girl chosen for the following year.

Prepared by

Museo Senza Frontiere, Saverio Capozzi, sulla base di materiale fornito da:
arch. Francesco Petrucci; © Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF).

Santuario di S. Maria di Galloro, facciata © MWNF

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