The beginning of the devotion is linked to an episode that occurred in the middle of the fifteenth century; it was an Easter Monday, the day of the so-called ‘Little Easter’, that is the famous out-of-town tour and near Pomigliano d’Arco, some young people were playing in a “mallet” pitch, today we would call it “Boules” ; on the edge of the pitch stood a kiosk on which was depicted an image of the Madonna with the Child Jesus, but more properly was painted under an arch of aqueduct; from these arches come the names of Madonna dell’Arco (Our Lady of the Arch) and Pomigliano d’Arco.
As the game unfolded, the ball ended up against an old linden tree, whose branches partly covered the frescoed wall, the player who had missed the shot, in practice lost the game; at the height of anger, the young man took the ball and cursed and threw it violently against the sacred image, hitting it on the cheek that it began to bleed.
The news of the miracle spread in the area, reaching the count of Sarno, a local nobleman, with the task of ‘executioner’; behind the fury of the people, the count set up a trial against the young blasphemer, condemning him to hanging.
The sentence was immediately executed and the young man was hanged on the lime tree near the kiosk, but two hours later still with his body dangling, the body dried up under the gaze of the stunned crowd.
This miraculous episode aroused the great devotion to the Madonna dell’Arco, which spread immediately throughout Southern Italy; crowds of believers rushed to the place of the prodigy, so it was necessary to build a chapel with the offerings of the faithful to protect the sacred image from the elements.
A first small chapel was built to protect the prodigious Image. Continuing with many prodigies and innumerable graces, at the end of 1500, San Giovanni Leonardi, was commissioned by Pope Clement VIII to provide for the decent accommodation of the Image. He began the construction of the current beautiful temple and a convent, which he delivered to the Dominican Fathers in 1594.