Around 1547 the Virgin appeared to Leonardo Weißensteiner (Weissensteiner), a pious and righteous local peasant who owns a large farm called Weissenstein, in the locality of Nova Ponente, in the plateau of Pietralba. In this vast and silent solitude, he lived quietly with his family, leading a virtuous life, even though he was so sorely tried by sufferings. In fact, some time before the apparition, Leonardo’s mental health wavered, and he was even interned in a mental asylum. Here Leonardo often had lucid intervals that made the situation more bitter; but he consoled himself with his faith. In one of these intervals Our Lady appeared to console him and to ask him for the construction of a chapel, as soon as he should be restored to freedom.
In one of the excesses of fury, which alternated with moments of calm, he managed to free himself from the chains and escape into the surrounding woods, where he fell into a ravine of Vallarsa without getting hurt, but recovering completely his mental health instantly. While he was thinking of how to get out of the deep ravine, Our Lady appeared again to comfort him and to remind him of Her request to build the chapel, assuring him that at the end of the ninth day his relatives (who were already looking for him) would find him again. Our Lady added that he should not be worried about his life, because in the meantime he would not miss the necessary nourishment or the protection from the beasts of the forest.
Our Lady told him:
“In order that you have no doubts about what I promise you, you will still remain nine days in this place, without food and drink; at the end of the ninth day, your family will find you. After all this, do not forget my words! “.
And so it happened.
After being found exactly the ninth day, Leonardo then returned home, devoting himself to his work. Leonardo, however, soon forgot his promise and was again attacked by that terrible sickness and with greater violence.
From that moment, at night a light was seen, always in that same place, and nobody knew what to make of it. After Leonardo then remembered everything, regaining his health again, he immediately went to work. Digging the foundations, he found a statue of the Our Lady depicting the “Pietà”: he thought it was a sign from Heaven and, after finishing the Chapel, he placed it there to be venerated.
And it was truly a heavenly sign: The Virgin wanted to manifest the great mercy of Her sorrowful Heart and graces multiplied in that place. It was in 1553.
The small statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, with Her lifeless Son Jesus in Her mother’s arms, had been carved with the same white stone of the area, which after gave its name to the locality.
After the spreading of the news of these miraculous events, many devotees, or simply curious persons, rushed to prays themselves before this statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, who continued to grant many favors. Leonardo, meanwhile, entrusted the care of his farms to his children, and eventually lived his life taking care only of the Chapel and consecrating himself to the Virgin as a hermit and faithful custodian of the Chapel until, rich in merits, he died in 1571 and since then he rests in the cemetery of Monte San Pietro. As early as 1673, that little chapel had become a church, built in 1650. From 1651 the sanctuary was entrusted to a resident priest, who was assigned to celebrate Mass, confess, but also to take care of the access roads to the sanctuary, taking care also of the needs of pilgrims and maintaining order in the area.
The current baroque style basilica was completed in 1654. But the growing inflow of the faithful made the work of a single priest insufficient, so it was decided to entrust the custody of the sanctuary to a religious community; the choice fell on the, for their particular charisma (spiritual call and mission) of propagating devotion to the sorrows of the Virgin Mary.
In 1718 the Servants of Mary, who had assumed their role in the sanctuary, built a monastery beside the sanctuary. From that moment the flow of pilgrims, who climbed through the narrow valley of Laives, often carrying some sign of penance, grew more and more that today, the Sanctuary of Pietralba is the most popular of Trentino Alto Adige.
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The news reported here are taken, integrating them to each other, from the following sources:
From the book: “Marian Apparitions” by M.Gamba, ed.Segno, 1999
From the website: www.dolomiti.it
From the official website of the Sanctuary of Pietralba: www.pietralba.it
From the magazine “Mother of God”, No. 10 October 2004