Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio, Cinque Terre
Church in Vernazza
The sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio is a Catholic place of worship situated in the locality bearing the same name in the municipality of Vernazza, within the province of La Spezia. This church serves as the seat of the homonymous parish within the diocese of La Spezia-Sarzana-Brugnato.
To reach the sanctuary, visitors must traverse a paved path approximately two kilometers long, starting from the railway station and leading through terraced cultivated lands, eventually arriving at the charming church square. The square is surrounded by centuries-old trees, including the oldest cypress tree in all of Liguria, estimated to be 800 years old.
Along the panoramic route, there are several chapels, each housing a station of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross).
The sanctuary is part of the “Cinque Terre sanctuaries,” which also include the sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero in Riomaggiore, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Health in Volastra, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace in Vernazza, and the sanctuary of Our Lady of Soviore in Monterosso al Mare.
History of Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio
Its origins can be traced back to Roman times, potentially dating back to the 1st century BC. During the Middle Ages, it served as an important crossroads. The ancient town of Reggio once stood here, and around the year 1000, the migration of the population towards the coast led to the founding of the ancient nucleus of Vernazza.
The area likely functioned as a pagan cemetery, possibly from the 5th century. The church itself, built before the 11th century on the remains of an ancient place of prayer, features remnants that can still be seen in the crypt. The church was first documented in 1248 under the title of Santa Maria. In 1318, it was referred to as Reggio.
The simple original Romanesque façade is constructed from stone and has a gabled design, adorned with Baroque decorations. The portal is topped by a lunette bearing a marble bas-relief depicting the Virgin and Child. The interior of the church was initially a basilica. In 1850, it underwent restructuring, resulting in three naves and a Latin cross plan. The interior decorations, including the ancient capitals, predominantly exhibit Baroque style.
Among the church’s treasures, aside from numerous votive offerings, is the painting of the Black Madonna with the Child Jesus. The image of the Madonna was once believed to have Byzantine origins, but recent studies have confirmed that it is from the Tuscan school of the 14th century. The veneration of the Virgin’s image has been documented since 1615, due to numerous reported miraculous healings. The sick who sought grace at the sanctuary would participate in sacred functions from a recess-niche in the right aisle, known as the “window.”
The guesthouse, constructed in the 19th century and formerly housing a nunnery, provides a refreshment area and accommodations for visitors.
Adjacent to the church stands a monumental cypress tree, reaching a height of 23 meters and measuring 4 meters in diameter. Its age is estimated to be 800 years.
On the slope bordering the square, ancient tombstones can be found. One of them, in the shape of a shield, bears the engraving of the cross of the Knights of Malta. Nearby is the “weeping column,” under which, according to tradition, a knight from the Malaspina family, who died in battle during the Crusades, was transported from Jerusalem and laid to rest.
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