165 – Itri’s Sanctuary of La Madonna della Cività

The Madonna della Cività is the patron of Itri.  An ancient  sanctuary, one of the oldest in Italy,   bears her name.  It is located inland, approximately 10 km from the centre of Itri, along a long winding road that leads its way through the Valle d’Itri into the Aurunci mountains,  perched at a height of 670 metres on the peak of Monte Cività.  

Up here the mountain air is clean and fresh, and on a clear day there are magnificent panoramic mountain views, whilst in one direction you can look down over Itri, the Gaeta peninsula and Ischia,  in another you can see Fondi and its coastal lakes and the superb coastline that sweeps round and culminates in the rocky promontory of San Felice Circeo, and the Pontine archipelago.

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• Wikipedia image

Here there is a church decorated in a Baroque style, a quiet place of prayer and contemplation.

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It houses the sacred icon, a painting of a black Madonna and Child, which is thought to have been painted by the St Luke the Evangelist, dating back to the 8th century when the Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered religious persecutions and outlawed sacred images. 

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Legend  has it that this work of art was lost at sea and then later found by a young mute herdsman who was searching for a missing cow on the mountainside.  On discovering the painting in the branches of a holm oak tree, the boy fell to his knees and prayed, and miraculously was able to hear and speak for the first time in his life. He went back to the town of Itri to tell people what had happened and the townsfolk were amazed to witness that the boy could now communicate.  

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This site became a venerated shrine and a Benedictine monastery, a destination of pilgrimage. The steady stream of pilgrims grew over the years and the sanctuary and its hostels grew accordingly.

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•• Wikipedia Image

In 1527 Itri found itself struck by the devasting Black Death.  On the 21 July of that year many people gathered at the Sanctuary and a procession took place through the local towns and villages with the sacred icon carried aloft.  The Madonna  is said to have miraculously intervened to spare many from the terrible plague.

So each year on the 21 July approximately 500,000 people make a sacred pilgrimage to the Sanctuary, some still on foot.

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On the outskirts of Itri in the Raino district there is a small shrine at the start of an ancient sheep track, a winding mountain trail that pilgrims have followed to reach the Sanctuary.

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In Itri near Via Farnese there is also a shrine dedicated to the

Madonna della Cività.

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The annual Feast of the Madonna della Cività

is held in Itri over  three consecutive days,  20th, 21st, 22nd July.

All photos by me (except where stated)

© Louise Shapcott

 • Wikipedia image Public Domain

•• Wikipedia image Public Domain

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Tre Cancelle Farmhouse Apartments Near Sperlonga Beaches and Historic Itri, South Lazio, Italy

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4 thoughts on “165 – Itri’s Sanctuary of La Madonna della Cività

  1. Wonderful post. I love all the photographs! My grandparents were from Itri and to this day my extended family celebrates the feast of the Madonna della Civita the third Sunday in July in Cranston, Rhode Island which is where thousands of Itrani settled when they came to the US. Our church was built by these settlers from Itri, my grandfather among them with many aspects of design looking like the Italian counterpart.

    I loved imagining my grandparents visiting all these places you’ve shared through the photographs!!

  2. Thank you so much. I have followed you for years and always enjoy what you write. But this post all abut the fast of Madonna della Civita is so dear to my heart you can not imagine. I have not enjoyed being right in Itri when the feast is on, it has been a wish of mine for years. My both Grandparents were from Itri and I am a cousin of Alexandra that also sent you a post.

    Thank you, Louise so much for making possible for all of us to see this wonderful tradition, I will forward to my children etc. In past years the feast here has lost its original message, but my family tries to keep it going.

    There is a women here who is writing a book on Itri and the people who settled here in R.I.Thanks again.
    Ciao,
    Valerie, Cranston R.I.

    • Ciao Valerie, You and Alexandra are very welcome. It is a pleasure to share my experiences. I hope one day to meet you when you make it to Itri. Please do keep in touch. Ciao for Now !!! Louise x

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