On the Euganean Hills, on the outskirts of Abano Terme, there is a famous Marian shrine, which for over five centuries, following an apparition of the Virgin, is a place of convergence of the Christian faith of the neighboring Venetian-Euganean peoples: it is the sanctuary of the Madonna della Salute (Our Lady of Good Health) di Monteortone. It is an artistic monument of faith, which consecrates to the Mother of God this very fortunate stretch of Venetian land, miraculously visited and miraculously blessed by Mary’s maternal assistance.
After many battles and following serious injuries that made the articulation of his lower limbs difficult, Pietro Falco went to Monteortone (Padua) on the advice of friends and doctors to search for healing or, at least, some relief from the injuries. He was a God-fearing man and have experienced the special protection, during his actions in warfare, by miraculously escaping death many times.
Those days, he usually spent his time retiring in prayer to a grove beneath that particular hill which, due to its roundness, may have given its name to the village below: Monteortone. But alas, the long treatment gave no result. He did not want to despair. He then turned to God with faith.
Inside the thicket, full of green, full of birdsong, the water of a warm spring bubbled, much ignored and neglected by the inhabitants of the place. Here once again Pietro retired to pray. His meditation turned into ecstasy and he had a vision. As he came down from the mountain, a luminous cloud covered the grove and a white figure of the Virgin appeared and She spoke to Pietro saying:
“Go, Pietro, and wash yourself in this spring water and you will recover your health. Once healed, search at the bottom of the water, because buried among the stones you will find a picture with my image. You will manifest to all, with the healing grace that you received, this rediscovered image, declaring that this wild place is under my protection and that I long in the future to be revered here the name of my most beloved Holy Son Jesus and my blessed name Mary. As confirmation of what you will say to them, take an olive branch from this mountain, as a symbol of peace for the Paduan people and reconciliation with God. Through my prayers and forgiveness of their errors, God is pleased to relieve them of the present plague. Take also an oak branch, symbol of the stable and the perpetual custody that I want to have of this place. Girdling your head with the branch of oak, it will dry out and you are to revive it by touching your side with it. Girdling the olive branch on your side it will dry up, and it will revive when you will gird your head with it”.
Pietro obeyed and in his bathing his limbs in the spring water, he regained strength and agility. Thus, recovered his health, he remembered the promises of Our Lady. He rummaged among the stones of the spring and, with much surprising wonder, discovered the picture, which was not at all ruined by the thermal water. It reproduces the image of the Mother of God in an exquisitely maternal attitude, with St. Christopher the martyr on the right and St. Anthony the Abbot on the left. It was on the month of May of the year 1428.
The news of the fact spread soon among the countries of the vast Euganean district and there was a continuous rush of the curious and the faithful, the healthy and the sick, both peasants and nobles. Ludovico Buzzaccarino, a Paduan nobleman, withdrawn on the nearby S. Daniele hill to escape from the plague that had broken out in an epidemic level in the city, wanted to ascertain the fact of the miracle. He was so impressed by the prodigiousness of the events that, after devoted and prolonged veneration of the sacred image, he immediately became guardian and advisor to Pietro. In fact, he placed the painting on an ash tree so that it could be seen by everyone. On the following day he himself accompanied Pietro Falco to the city to announce to the rectors of Padua how much the Virgin had revealed to him.
His account was confirmed by the miraculous fact, and all suspicion disappeared and a verification by the Podestà of Padua and the Vicar of the diocese took away any other doubts. Ludovico Buzzaccarino was personally charged with taking care of the place and providing for the custody of the spring. Meanwhile, the promises of the Virgin were taking place as predicted: the plague, spread throughout the Veneto, was disappearing and the peace among cities taking shape. At the beginning an oratory was built and the current sacellum containing the sacred image can be found behind the railing of the main altar.
The growing fame of the apparition and the influx of pilgrims, made the rectors of Padua to decre the building of a temple worthy of the Mother of God. Together with the church, it was decided to build a convent also for the custodians of the sanctuary, which were at that time, the religious Hermits of S. Agostino. They were already present in Padua and well known and much respected. From the city came the first two Augustinian friars, who presided over the work of the sanctuary and increased much the devotion to the Virgin. They were soon joined by Fra Simone da Camerino, a man distinguished for holiness of life, depth of science, diplomatic ability, which helped increase the cult of the Virgin and together the religious life of his Order, making the convent of Monteortone a cenacle of spirituality for the new congregation. Fra Simone waited completion of the church first and only then did the start of the work of the planned convent took place: “it was grandiose in its architectural lines and monumental in its late Gothic-Venetian style and early Renaissance”. He aslo founded the Augustinian Congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monteortone and which was approved by Pope Eugenio IV in 1434, being he too, a former hermit of S. Agostino. While devotion to the Virgin was spreading and his graces increased, a conflict broke out between Venice and Milan, which resulted in provocative actions, devastation, clashes. From Monteortone, friar Simone da Camerino left for Milan as ambassador of the Serenissima Signoria* of Venice in order to avert or prevent the war. With the help of the Virgin – who promised peace when she appeared, the able friar succeeded.
*(the Serenissima Signoria was the supreme body of government of the Republic of Venice)
History of the sanctuary as found in the official website of the sanctuary – http://www.monteortone.it/3sto/app.htm