The story goes that in 1144, a boy found his calf kneeling before an unusual iron cross, apparently just unearthed. The Madonna appeared, asking for the young herder to spread the news and for a church to be built on the spot, half a mile high in the mountains.
In 1560, a chest was found floating in the sea to Bagnara. Taken ashore, it was found to contain a stone statue of the Madonna. When the chest was placed in a cart, the oxen suddenly took off for the mountain pass, and nothing more was heard of the statue until it turned up in the heart of Aspromonte, at the place where a calf had found a cross and the Madonna had requested a church. The sanctuary there became a place of pilgrimage.
Every year, people from all over Calabria and Sicily would make the 24-hour trek, enlivened by tarantellas and ballads, along the rugged path to Polsi, where they would greet the Madonna with gunshots on their arrival September 2. As pilgrims still do — though now they can travel by road or train as well — they would spend the night in one of the hostels near the shrine. On September 3, a wooden Madonna is carried in procession.
Maria di Polsi “canzone”
The stone statue is only taken from its place on the main altar every 25 years or in special circumstances. Also known as the Mother of the Good Shepherd, the Madonna of the Mountain was crowned in 1881 and 1931 and on September 2, 1981.
VIDEO PILGRIMAGE: (auto-subtitle in english is available)**
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