THE HISTORY OF THE PLACE
The city of San Salvatore Monferrato lies on two rolling hills in a large amphitheater that slowly slopes down towards the Po valley.
Agricultural and industrial center of considerable importance, ten kilometers from Alessandria and twenty from Casale, from the year 1000 until 1700 it underwent the ups and downs of three noble dynasties.
The first dynasty, that of the Marquis descended from the legendary Aleramo, lasted from the year 961 until John I, who died without heir, in the year 1305.
During this period, the “Castle of San Salvatore” is subject to several raids, and passes under the government of various bishops, and of various “lords”. The Marquis who most stands out is William VII, “the Grand Marquis”, nicknamed “Long Sword”, because he makes San Salvatore famous with the battle fought and directed by him personally, on September 10, 1290, against the Guelphs of Alexandria, on the slopes south of San Salvatore. Today the locality is remembered by the via Prelio (Combat Road). Five years later, however, in 1295, the Alessandrini took revenge, setting the “Castle of San Salvatore” on fire.
In 1305 the dynasty of the Marquis Palaeologus took over with Teodoro I, which lasted until the death of Gian Giorgio in 1533. In this period San Salvatore acquired increasing prestige and importance, above all as a “border castle”. It must supply six men to the Monferrato army, while the neighboring countries supply only two; but it enjoys ever greater civic freedom, sanctioned by the Statutes obtained in the year 1374. It also boasts of the Tower, about 25 meters high, which still stands up to the sky, but for the sole purpose of observatory on the surrounding valleys and plains.
In 1533, the third historical period begins which frames and in a certain sense gives occasion to the miraculous event of the Lady of the Well which took place in San Salvatore. In that year, a fierce dispute ignited over the succession to the Marquisate of Monferrato between the Duke of Savoy, supported by Francis I, King of France, and the Duke of Mantua, supported by Charles V, King of Spain and Emperor. The war, according to the custom of the time, lasts several years, bringing deaths, looting and devastation everywhere. The defenseless population is the one that suffers the worst consequences of the struggles between the powerful and therefore has a cordial hatred towards the occupying armies, the ultimate cause of their hardships.
In this climate of war and rebellion, the attempt to kill the Spanish soldier Martino De Nava matures, and it was the occasion of the consequent apparition of the Madonna who saves him.
On May 15, 1616, towards noon a Company of Spanish soldiers moved from Valenza to Casale Monferrato, through the hills of San Salvatore. It was part of this company a certain soldier Martino De Nava, particularly devoted to Our Lady, who brought with him a Rosary given to him by his mother, on his departure from Spain. He might have said the Rosary every day in times of rest from military exercises. He is certainly a good Christian and a devotee of Mary. The fact that Our Lady came to his rescue visibly shows that Martino is in communion of prayer with Mary and that he is in love with Her.
THE HISTORY OF THE APPARITION
The day is exceptionally hot, and the Company in need of water, the soldiers were scattered around the area in search of wells. Martino enters a shady lane that gently climbs from the Saliceto valley, in an area called Pelagallo, towards the hill. He reaches a pylon on which an image of Our Lady is painted; near it opens, almost hidden among the foliage, a well without parapet, about ten meters deep. For Martino, finding water is like a grace from heaven; he throws himself on his knees to finish the recitation of the Rosary which he had already began as soon as he found himself alone along the country lane. He took another look at the image of Our Lady on the pylon, then tries to work with the rope and the bucket that he brought with him to draw water.
Happy to have found the water, but he hears a slight rustle and sees a farmer who is watching him hidden among the green foliage. He has a moment of suspicion that something is happening to him, being without weapons, but then taking courage, he continues to work to draw water; he lies down on the ground to gain space with his arm inside the well, when he feels attacked, insulted and injured several times with his arm stretched out of the well. He leaps to his feet and engages in a violent scuffle with the force of despair, but the assailant throws blows madly, angrily, so much so that Martino, overwhelmed, loses a lot of blood and falls almost passed out. To hide the crime and to avoid the revenge of his fellow soldiers not far away, the attacker throws Martino into the well.
Upon contact with fresh water, Martino got back to himself and clings to an elm root that is found there. He asks for help, but the echo of his voice is lost in silence. Looking up, in the space of heaven that opens onto the well, he sees the image of Our Lady painted on the pylon. He then turns to Her asking with faith for help. On the edge of the well Martino sees a beautiful Lady holding a sweet Child in her arms, while the water, dyed red by his blood, grows slowly, bringing it to the edge of the well.
Martino is surprised: the Lady with the celestial face holds out her hand and so does the Child. He is happy and feels safe even on the water that no longer gives in to the weight of his body. Martino looks in ecstasy, now at the face of the woman, now to that of the child and comes out of the well, supported by the Lady and the Child. He has no words to thank his Benefactress who helped him; she indicated to him to go towards the bivouac of the soldiers, about three hundred meters away.
Supported by the Lady, Martino arrives among the comrades. Some comrades went to meet him to help him, while the Lady stops. Martino and the soldiers thank the gentle Savior. In the meantime, Captain Don Giovanni Bravo De Laguna arrives with some officers, who, having heard the extraordinary event by Martino himself, orders to give “two Spanish double” to the Lady; but when the soldier approaches, the Lady who has been so good and charitable, disappears before the astonished eyes of the Spaniards.
The soldiers are amazed and they are the first to believe in the miracle and to talk about it among themselves. The Captain, as a good soldier, wants to know it clearly. He orders Martino to be treated first. Then he immediately scans the surroundings; he asks all the people they meet to find out about the woman who has disappeared so mysteriously from their sight. However detailed the research, nothing is known about the woman. Meanwhile Martino is improving. The captain and the officers, gathered together, have the episode recounted, subjecting Martino to very close interrogation. The guilty is sought, but the guilty is never reached, also because Martino has always been reluctant to look for him, having sincerely forgiven him in his heart.
As soon as Martino is in a position to walk well, he goes with his Captain to the Archpriest of San Salvatore, because now the fame of the miracle has spread throughout the country and everyone wants to know and hear from Martino how the prodigious event took place . The Lady of the Well, which is so immediately called, is the theme of all conversations. Every day large crowds of faithful go to the place of the miracle: many drink the water of the well for devotion, many pray on their knees. We already speak of graces received, of vows granted, of healings made.
Monsignor Giovanni Battista Biglia, bishop of Pavia, on whom San Salvatore depends, to whom news of the prodigious event has come from many quarters, assigns the Archpriest of San Martino, Don Giovanni Pietro Buzio, to receive in the presence of witnesses the deposition of the miracle. Martino confirms, with an oath, what has happened to him and expounds everything with frank and passionate words. Also in other depositions Martino always confirms with oath what happened to him.
The Bishop, after a mature examination of every detail, with his decree of April 2, 1617, acknowledges the prodigious event, authorizing the erection of a chapel on the spot “in honor of the glorious Mother of God”. This confirms the reliability of those details which were investigated with great care for about a year and examined by the most rigorous examination.
VIDEO PILGRIMAGE: (in italian)
Autore – Don Mario Morra – http://www.donbosco-torino.it/ita/Maria/calendario/04-05/8-Apparizione_Madonna_Pozzo.html dal RIVISTA MARIA AUSILIATRICE 2004-8