An extraordinary and well-documented story.
“In the year 1467 of Our Lord Incarnation, during the vespers of the feast of St. Mark, the Image of the Mother of God who is venerated in the marble altar of this temple, appeared from above”.
So, we read on the tombstone (written in Latin) under the tympanum of the door of the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Buon Consiglio (Our Lady of Good Counsel) of Genazzano. According to scholars, it is contemporary with the facts narrated, that dates back to the end of the fifteenth century. Others are the documents that date back to the time of the prodigy. The inner chapel, where the miraculous image of Mary is kept, is dominated by a beautiful tribune of rare marbles, also dating back to the end of the fifteenth century. On the arch of the tribune we read this very simple Latin writing that we translate: “Divinely this image appeared in the year 1467 on April 25”.
The “coming” of the Virgin
The father Ambrogio da Cori, known as Coriolano, was then provincial of the Augustinians of the Roman province, on which the church depended. The church was given to the Augustinians by the Colonna, who were the local feudal lords. The Coriolanus must defend the Order from the accusations of the Lateran Canons of Frisonia and, for this purpose, writes the work In Difensorium Ordinis fratrum heremitarurn Sancta Augustani, where among other things, he lists a series of figures of saints blooming in his religious family.
“Eighth on this list of figures – he tells us – was the blessed Petruccia of Genazzano, who had all the expenses to repair our church, thus putting into practice the advice of Christ: if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, Give it to the poor, and follow me (…)
Because his property was not enough to complete the restoration work, people began to mock her. But she quietly reassured: Do not worry, my children; before I die – she was then already much advanced in years – the Blessed Virgin and Saint Augustine will complete the repair work of the church itself.
The prophecy was fulfilled in a wonderful way. Not a year had passed from the time that she had uttered the words as referred above, behold miraculously, an image of the Blessed Virgin appeared in the wall of said church Many people from all over Italy were moved to admire this event (…) There were prodigies and miracles. With the alms that came had exceeded all expectations, with the blessed Petruccia still alive to witness it, and not only could the church be rebuilt, but it was also possible to build a beautiful convent “.
According to both the biography written in 1478 and the Vatican Archive, the pilgrimages to Genazzano were so numerous that Pope Paul II sent two bishops to check on the situation. There were no irregularities found, and this explains the support that the popes continued to give to the Sanctuary throughout the centuries. The tomb with the remains of Petruccia, who was always popularly venerated as a saint, is at the entrance of the church. In the year of the “coming” of the Madonna, as described by the people of Genazzano, the documentation called “code of miracles” was drafted under notary, which describes 161 miracles that took place in the chapel between 25 April and 14 August 1467. The prefect of the Vatican archive, Msgr. Marini, certified its authenticity in 1779. There is even a resurrection of a dead man!
After just six months from the “coming”, the Augustinian fathers could no longer continue to document the flood of miracles so accurately, that they limited themselves to accepting only the ex voto (gifts) in gold, silver and marble that were offered in thanksgiving and in memory of the many supernatural interventions.
Holy Mary of Paradise
We describe the image with the words of the Augustinian Francisco Javier Vàsquez, general of the Order in the eighteenth century: “Its beauty raptures the heart, its appearance is sometimes joyous and at times sad, and sometimes it is seen as inflamed by the color rose, her most beautiful face is to be compared to Paradise, that is why, from the beginning of the apparition she was popularly called Holy Mary of Paradise (Santa Maria del Paradiso)». In fact, Holy Mary of Paradise, is the title with which the inhabitants of Genazzano have long called this rectangle of frescoed plaster of our Lady which is precariously placed on the wall of the Church. But over time the Augustinians obtained, with the support of the pontiffs, that the image was to be called by all, with the original title of the church that stood on that spot: Our Lady of Good Counsel (Madonna del Buon Consiglio). Which at a later time, as we shall see, is not without significance.
(End of Part One … to be continued tomorrow)