In the place where the Sanctuary now stands, a poor deaf-mute of humble appearance and short stature, dressed in a rough habit, used to lead the animals to pasture. Nobody cared for him but on May 8, 1521 Bartolomeo Coppa saw a Lady dressed in white come towards him, who approached him with maternal affection and blessed him and gave him the use of his tongue. He then told him to go to Fossano to announce the justice of God and to warn that there would be great scourges if penance was not done.

Having said that, the Lady disappeared and Bartolomeo ran to tell the event. His acquaintances were shocked to hear him speak and the good ones encouraged him to fulfill the mission that had been entrusted to him.

Bartholomew thus went through the streets of the city to become a proclaimer of penance and to send Christians to leave the way of sin, threatening the chastisements of God. But he was not listened to and he was disheartened, tired and hungry after three days, he returned to the place of the prodigy and here he fell asleep on the ground.

And this is where a new prodigy took place. The Lady, who did not abandon those who are faithful to her, appeared to him a second time, no longer dressed in white but dressed in blue, gave him bread, repeated the command of the first time and disappeared. Bartolomeo waking up found the food and gave thanks to the divine benefactor.

He brought some bread to his master and those from the neighborhood and reminded them of the Lord’s threats. But again it was not believed.

After just six months, in October of the same year, a horrendous plague broke out in Fossano and the surrounding area. Thousands of victims and desolation, death and sadness, reminded the people of Fossano of the words of poor Bartholomew, who had foretold these punishments.

Pestilence scene by Cavalier Calabrese – in the collection of Pietro Antonio Macedonio

The people then decided to follow his words and the plague subsided. In memory of the prodigious event, they erected a chapel on the site of the apparition of the Madonna, dedicating it to the Queen of Heaven.

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Over the years there was an awakening of devotion to the Mother of God and pilgrimages to the chapel began. However, they wished the chapel to be better served and officiated. In 1617 the Augustinians of Genoa and their Father Angelo Gallarati invited by the bishop of the time, began building their convent in Cussanio. In 1634 the chapel was no longer enough to cope up for the demands, it was decided to enlarge it and embellish it with paintings. The reconstruction of the chapel and convent was entrusted in 1623 to the young architect Giovenale Boetto.

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It is attributed to Del Boetto the first engraving on “The Madonna of Cussanio” (1642) dedicated by the Augustinian fathers to the Fossanese bishop Federico Sandri Trotti. Giovanni Claret refers to this almost photographic image, who in 1656 signed and given the name of the altarpiece of the main altar “The Madonna of the Miracle”. The Augustinians promoted the cult to the Virgin, adding more embellishments to the sacred place and Cussanio became a center of devotion and works of sanctification.

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The dark year for convents came in 1802. Piedmont had fallen into the hands of the French Republicans who aimed to destroy the religious orders. Everything in convents were closed and the monks and nuns dispersed. The Convent of Cussanio was cleared and put up for public auction and the Church was stripped of every precious object and almost reduced to just the walls.

The Augustinian Fathers were forced to leave the convent and never returned even after the property was returned to the Church during the restoration. The rebirth of the Sanctuary was possible only with the arrival in the diocese of Bishop Emiliano Manacorda in 1872, a friend of San Giovanni Bosco, who claimed ownership of the Monastery which was among the assets confiscated following the Suppression Laws of 1866, and started the restructuring of the Church.
The works directed by Giuseppe Maria Magni began in 1875: the single-nave church was extended, the old choir was transformed into a presbytery and the new choir was placed behind the main altar, two lateral naves were built and the marble altars became seven. At the center of the nave the majestic dome rose and on the main front the facade was completely rebuilt adorning it with three marble groups and a peristyle with a terrace above.

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The devotion to the Shrine is testified by the many votive tablets hanging on the walls of the ambulatory with good quality printed votive offerings, many embroideries, oleographs reproducing the Claret picture and ex-voto paintings on tin, produced locally and from Turin.

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