There are those who have found in the European flag a clear Marian reference and more precisely to the “woman clothed with the sun” (cf. Ap. 12) of the Apocalypse. It seems that there are two marian patron saints of Europe: one in the church of “Our Lady of Europe” in Gibraltar, the other in Motta di Madesimo (Italy) 13 meters high and all covered in gold.
Each state has its own flag. Europe is not yet a unified state, but cultivates the hope that it will become one. However, there is a flag for the European Union (EU). And it has a singular history, and let’s also say a little bit “Marian”. A few years after the Second World War, in 1949, a commission was entrusted with the task of designing the flag of Europe. Its first task was to rule out possible contrasts or resemblances too close to flags of other states in order to avoide unpleasant accusations of “copying”. After lengthy discussions, the following
The color of Europe should be blue:
black is the color of Africa,
the yellow of Asia,
the red of America,
the green of Australia.
– On the blue field equal stars would appear, to signify equality in dignity of large and small states. The problem was: how many stars? It wasn’t an easy task. The 12 was chosen because it is highly symbolic: like the 12 hours of the day, the 12 months of the year, the 12 signs of the zodiac … and also the 12 apostles. Twelve identical stars in the shape of a circle.
It was in October 1955 that the Assembly adopted the flag of Europe, which is the current one. But only on 8 December (feast of the Immaculate Conception) was it adopted by the ministers of the Council of Europe. A few days later she was hoisted in Strasbourg. Obviously someone saw a religious or better “Marian” call the date of December 8 and in the 12 stars which recalls the vision of the Apocalypse of “a woman clothed with the sun, with a crown of 12 stars” as is said in chapter 12, (again the number 12, but this time it is pure coincidence). This same “Marian” inspiration also guided the master Max Ingrand in designing the new stained glass window of the Strasbourg cathedral. It was dedicated to Mary protector of Europe.
The Church of Our Lady of Europe in Gibraltar
We hope that Mary will continue to be the protector of the continent also in this new Euro adventure. Because it is not only an economic issue but also of peace, justice, truth, fraternity and solidarity. These values were dear to his Son Jesus, and therefore also to Our Lady. In reality the european continent had been consecrated to Mary as far back as the 1300s. Our Lady of Europe is still venerated in Gibraltar today with the title of “Our Lady of Europe”.
There is a statue that testifies to this devotion of the Virgin Mary. It dates back to around 1300, when Christian princes occupied the promontory. After expelling, according to the use of time, the Muslim population, the new owners dedicated not only that place but the whole continent to Mary invoking her with the title of “Our Lady of Europe”. A small mosque built by the Arabs in 711 during their first landing was chosen as the location. It was located on the southernmost point of the continent.
In this new church they placed the statue. It has then experienced a singular story. In 1333 the Muslims recaptured the fortress. But the Christians, before they escaped, buried the statue of the Our Lady (and it was found only in 1967). The troubles of the shrine chapel did not end there. Over the centuries it underwent other destructions and looting, this time by the English and by the Dutch invaders.
Finally in 1962 Bishop John F. Healy celebrated mass in a newly built chapel. It was then in 1979 that Pope St. John Paul II entrusted the diocese of Gibraltar, the southernmost of the continent of Europe, to the special protection of Our Lady of Europe.
SANCTUARY OF OUR LADY OF EUROPE
Located at 2000 meters above sea level, the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe is home to the European Ecumenical Center for Peace.
The metal statue, 13 meters high, which represents the Virgin of the Peaks, is covered with gold foil and was made, thanks to the initiative of the Alpine Group of Casatenovo Brianza and to the interest of the friend of Don Luigi Re, and by the sculptor Egidio Casagrande, from Borgo Valsugana. The monument or shrine was inaugurated in 15 October 1957. Laying on a circular sector structure, it weighs 4 tons and acts as an outdoor sanctuary. Initially, the statue stayed for a year in Casatenovo; then an “alpine” location was designed, which was originally the region Stella, but then discarded due to particularly intense action of atmospheric agents, beyond 3000 meters, that would have compromised the integrity of the statue. Therefore, the current location of the Motta di Madesimo was chosen.
The transport presented many problems, which were overcome however, thanks to the intervention of the Army, which supported the effort of the Casatenovo Alpini. Finally it was the intervention of skilled goldsmiths not only from Italy, but also from European countries to contribute to the realization of the golden coating that embellishes and gives a splendid brightness to the majestic statue.
On the two ledges on the sides of the Sanctuary there are a series of panels which, alternated with writings and representations, represent two meditative paths, one to support hope and the other to suggest that the Faith looks to Jerusalem. Don Luigi Re, who died on April 14, 1965, was buried in the center of the Sanctuary area: for his interest, in fact, as mentioned, the statue was made by his friend Egidio Casagrande. The Sanctuary was developed to make it a destination for Christian pilgrims.
To reach it, you start from Madesimo, a tourist resort in Valchiavenna, on foot, on the road closed to traffic, proceeding through coniferous woods and after about 30 minutes easy pathway, one reaches Motta di Sotto (1,720 m). One finds here the Casa Alpina founded by Don Luigi Re. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the statue of the Madonna points to this structure.
Continuing on the road one reaches the Blue Lake, whose name derives from the particularly intense color of its waters. On the right one continues on a path that leads to the Sanctuary and which allows your gaze to wander over the peaks of Valchiavenna. After about another 30 minutes of walking, the silhouette of the Statue is clearly visible, unaware of the whiteness of the snow that surrounds it in the winter months and the rays of the sun that caress its golden surface stands out against the sky.
Translation in English by Fr. Maximilian Tremocha
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