“The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Civita in the territory of Itri, of the Archdiocese of Gaeta, is the oldest Marian temple in the world consecrated to the Mary Immaculate”,
says Father Antonio Rungi, Passionist theologian, vice-superior of the Passionist community of the Shrine, former provincial superior. “The first consecration of the Sanctuary, says Father Rungi – dates back to Pentecost Monday in June 1491. It was Monsignor Francesco Patrizi, bishop of Gaeta, who consecrated the place of worship, dedicated for some time to the Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, where the faithful came to pray to the Holy Mother of God.
The close relationship of this sanctuary with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is subsequently confirmed by historical facts of great importance for this place. The visit to the Shrine of the Civita of Pope Pius IX, exiled to Gaeta, is dated 10 February 1849, which according to historians was the occasion to confirm his intention to proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which took place in 1854.
After 140 years, on June 29, 1989, Pope John Paul II, today a saint, visited the Sanctuary of the Civita, on the occasion of his pastoral ministry at the Archdiocese of Gaeta, to meet the sick.
Brief historical summary of the Sanctuary:
The oral tradition has it that the sacred image was found by a deaf-mute shepherd while searching for a cow scattered in the woods of Mount Civita.
Among the branches of a “holm oak tree, the cow on its knees and the shepherd gained the use of hearing and speech”, this is how the Civitana history and devotion begins. Its origins and how it has come down to us is a mystery; in such an impervious place. It is part of the popular tradition. The provenance of the painting itself can be traced back to the iconoclastic persecutions of Constantinople ordered by the Emperor Leo Isauricus, around the eighth century AD; while the first historical document dates back to 1147. The institution of the annual feast day of 21 July dates back to 1527 when the Virgin from the Civita freed all the inhabitants of the surrounding villages from the plague.
The first coronation of the sacred image is dated July 21, 1777, during the episcopate of Msgr. Carlo Pergamon. Currently the sanctuary of the Civita, since 1985 is manage by the Passionist Fathers of Lower Lazio and Campania.
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