Madonna del Mirteto Sanctuary
Il stands above, emerging during the day with its marble candor out of the green hills and at night with its crown-shaped illuminated in the darkness. It is the Madonna del Mirteto of Ortonovo Sanctuary, one of the most famous and revered in Lunigiana.
Once in the village of Ortonovo, we have to climb a steep cobbled hill with two long ramps that leads us in front of the majestic 16th Century church. Here after a few marble steps we are in the church courtyard, from which we can enjoy a wonderful view of the valley that was the domain of the ancient Luni. And the strong link with the Roman city appears to us immediately looking around: near steps we can see the base of a column, clear Luni’s legacy, but also in the sanctuary facade you can identify epigraphs from the destroyed and abandoned city of Luni, in one case perhaps by the tympanum of an altar or shrine dedicated to Augustus worship, as you can see in the still legible inscription.
Once you cross the doorway, the system of three-nave church, immediately guide the gaze towards the central altar, where a rich marble octagonal temple will surprise you off center, that houses the miraculous image of the Virgin of Mirteto, whom the sanctuary is dedicated to. It is said that on July 29th, 1537 while attending their daily prayers, some women saw gushing tears of blood from the eyes of the Madonna.
The miracle immediately aroused great attention and a strong interest that led hundreds of devotees to make a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary. This unexpected influx of devotees necessitated the expansion and transformation of parts of the religious complex to accommodate the many people who came every day in this place. A new and unexpected commitment for the Confraternita dei Disciplinati who ran the structure and risked not being able to devote the necessary time to charities, their spiritual mission, and so they decided to entrust the Sanctuary to the Dominican Order, which came into possession in 1584. Since 2003, the Sanctuary is guarded by the priests of the Missionary Fraternity of Mary, the religious community founded in Guatemala in Central America.
Every year on the night between September 7th and 8th, the day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, they celebrate the Feast of Nostra Signora del Mirteto, which attracts faithful, tourists and visitors from all over, for the traditional fair along the village, for the solemn evening Mass, the fishing charity that involves the whole community and fireworks that awake and rejoice all the valley.
Source: Trame di Lunigiana