Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 28 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Wenceslaus
home iconTravel
line break icon

The northern Italian church that appears to be suspended in air

MADONNA DELLA CORONA; VERONA

Photo by Ciarán Flood from Pexels

V. M. Traverso - published on 07/31/19

The “Santuario della Madonna della Corona” was carved into a mountain overlooking a dramatic cliff above Lake Garda. 

Most tourists come to Verona, in northern Italy, to admire the world-famous balcony featured in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But not many visitors know that just a few miles north of Verona lies one of the most unique churches of Europe. The “Santuario della Madonna della Corona,” literally the Sanctuary of Mary of the Crown, was built in 1530 by carving into the rock face of Mount Baldo in the Gerdeneses Alps. In its spot clinging to the cliff above Lake Garda, it looks as if it is suspended in air.

The origins of The Church of Mount Baldo, as locals call it, go back to the 14th century, when the natural cave formations started to attract holy men looking to spend periods of reflection and prayer. In 1530, when the earliest structure of the current church was built, it could only be reached by a tiny passage hanging down the cliffside. For a long time, only the most adventurous believers dared to reach the church. Indeed, one of the local noblemen decided to mark his dedication to the hard-to-reach church by leaving a 70-cm tall stone statue that still bears his family’s name.

For the past 500 years, locals have tried to make this seemingly suspended church more accessible. First, they built a wooden bridge at the bottom of the valley so that visitors no longer needed to cross a river to get there. Then, during the 16th century, they built two large staircases that led up to the church, sparing people from walking along a rocky and windy path.

By 1625, as more and more pilgrims were flocking to this remote corner of northern Italy to visit the church, locals decided to build a bigger structure located 13 feet above the first church, which was incorporated in the presbytery of the new church.

The church remained intact throughout the two world wars that plagued the region in the 20th century; however, it incurred serious damage due to wear and tear. In 1974 local Bishop Giuseppe Carraro asked Guido Tisato to refurbish the church. Tosato decided to demolish the existing construction to build a new one based on more solid foundations. By 1978 the new church was consecrated by Bishop Carraro and by 1982 it entered the list of “minor basilicas” of Italy. But what can be considered the highlight of its 500-year-old history occurred in 1988 when Pope John Paul II visited the basilica and led believers in a collective prayer service to the Madonna of the Crown.

Plan a visit: From Verona, take a local train until Peschiera del Garda and then buses (483, 476) to Spiazzi. You will see signs indicating the beginning of the path to the “Santuario della Madonna della Corona.” Guided pilgrimages can be booked through this website.

Tags:
Church HistoryItalyTravel
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
2
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
3
Fr. Michael Rennier
The purpose of life according to J.R.R. Tolkien
4
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
5
crisis man
Marzena Devoud
Advice from 3 monks for overcoming acedia
6
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
7
Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Daniel Esparza
What Jesus wrote
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.