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The Catholic Defender: The Virgin Mary visits Rapallo, Italy in 1557

Tonight on Deepertruth 8:00 Central, with Catholic Convert Apologist John Carpenter The Virgin Mary visits Rapallo, Italy in 1557 07/30 by Deeper Truth | Christianity (

On July 2, 1557, a farmer named Giovanni Chichizola was walking on a donkey trail on a wooded hill overlooking the city of Rapallo. Coming upon a cool, shady spot, he paused for his noonday rest. The sound of a sweet voice calling his name startled him to alertness.

this shrine of Our Lady is situational on a mountain overlooking the resort town of Rapallo and its gulf. Approximately 15 miles southeast of the great port city of Genoa, Rapallo's gulf also opens into the Ligurian Sea. But unlike the many shrines of Our Lady located on the shores of Italy which are consecrated to the Queen of Heaven near the Sea, that of Montallegro has a different dedication.

The shrine owes its origin to one Giovanni Chichizola, who was making his way home through the mountains behind Rapallo on July 2, 1557. Coming upon a cool, shady spot, he paused for his noonday rest. The sound of a sweet voice calling his name startled him to alertness. There, standing close beside him, was a beautiful lady surrounded by an intense light. With a reassuring smile the vision addressed Giovanni with the words: "Do not fear, Giovanni. I am Mary, the Mother of God. Go and tell the people of Rapallo of my appearance." The vision then directed his attention to a small picture propped against one of the rocks where he had been resting. "Tell the people that this picture was brought here from Greece by the angels. I leave it here in token of my love for them. Fast on Saturday." The vision then disappeared as if carried away in a cloud. Giovanni was filled with happiness as he looked upon the painting. His first reaction was to pick up the picture and carry it to Rapallo, but he found it impossible to remove the picture from the rock. Giovanni then called to other peasants who were nearby to come see his treasure. While he told them his wondrous story, they discovered that a trickle of water was starting to flow from the same rock against which the picture stood -- a place which until that moment had been perfectly dry. Giovanni left the blessed picture in the charge of his friends while he ran to the city. The priests to whom he told his story were skeptical, but because of Giovanni's excitement they reluctantly followed him to the place of the apparition. There they saw the picture which none of the peasants could lift, and the spring which had mysteriously appeared. One of the priests raised the portrait without difficulty and carried it in processin to the parish church, where it was carefully locked up pending further investigation. The next day the painting was missing from its locked enclosure, but was found on the mountainside at the place where Giovanni had originally found it. This could mean but one thing: Our Lady wantd her image to remain on the mountain, and that it should be protected by a chapel. The people at once began to plan for a chapel and more permanent church that would come later. A herculean task confronted them, since hundreds of tons of solid rock had to be removed to provide a level place for construction, and building materials had to be dragged up the mountain to a height of some 1,900 feet. Nevertheless, a year after Our Lady's apparition, the church was ready for consecration. Painted on wood, the miraculous picture measures 6 1/2 by 5 inches, with the upper part slightly rounded. Our Lady is shown lying on a bier which is covered with a red pall and surrounded by a number of small flowers. Our Lady is clothed in a brown robe. Her feet are bare, and her head is surrounded by a halo. Behind the bier is a figure representing the Blessed Trinity. A large aureole represents the Beatific Glory into which Mary was admitted. St. Peter, vested in Greek episcopal vestments, stands at Our Lady's head, while at her feet a group of saints linger in a mournful attitude. Archangels Michael and Gabriel are also depicted. In the basilica which replaced the original chapel, the celebrated picture is enshrined in a pavilion behind the high altar. Preserved in the State Archives of Genoa are important documents relating to the inquiry made in 1558. Given before Msgr. Falceta, the Archbishop's Vicar-General, the documents pertain to the questions asked of Giovanni Chichizola and the observations of Msgr. Falceta. Records also reveal that Our Lady's intervention brought about deliverance from the plague in 1579, 1590 and 1630. On these and other occasions, the people saw to it that Our Lady was thanked by means of votive plaques, hundreds of which still hang in the basilica. The ex-votos became so numerous that galleries were built to accomodate them. These additions to the sancturary soon proved inadequate, since the plaques multiplied to such an extent that even the cloister and sacristy were covered with them. The Sacred Congregation of Rites, in 1739, granted the plea of the city of Rapallo to name Our Lady of Montallegro as its patroness. Once again the shrine found acceptance with the Vatican when Our Lady of Montallegro was crowned in solemn ceremonies on July 7, 1767 by the Bishop of Ajaccio, Corsica. And what became of the rock upon which the miraculous picture rested at the time of the apparition? It is found almost concealed at one side of the altar. And what of the water from the miraculous spring? A white marble trough with a faucet is provided for those who want to drink the water or collect it in bottles. Just above the faucet is a small door through which the rock is visible. Also seen here is the small cavity which is the actual source of the water.


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