The image of the “Our Lady of Life” placed on the high altar has been variously attributed to the hand of Simone dei Crocifissi (documented from 1355 – 1399), or to his nephew Lippo di Dalmasio. According to tradition, an image of Madonna and Child was frescoed on the wall to the east, towards Via Pescherie, in the first church built in 1286 by the Compagnia di Santa Maria della Vita. With the reconstruction of 1502, the fresco, not considered of particular interest, was covered by a layer of plaster.
On 10 September 1614 the ancient image was rediscovered, still in a good state of preservation. Considered miraculous, it became the object of particular veneration by the Confraternity, which elected it as protectress of the adjacent hospital and the sick. The image was relocated in 1617 into a new altar, and the painter Ludovico Carracci drew a new front to be affixed to the fresco as a votive tribute. In the collapse of 1686, the fresco remained unharmed, and was removed during the reconstruction of the church, after which it was rearranged in its current location. On September 10 the traditional feastday of the Sanctuary is celebrated in occasion of the date of its discovery. The devotion to Our Lady of Life spread widely in Emilia, and also in Piedmont: a sanctuary was built in Mozio di Crodo (Novara).
In the sanctuary there is also the sculptures group of the Transito della Vergine (Transit of the Virgin Mary) by Alfonso Lombardi and the Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca. (See video below)