“MIRACLE! I CAN SEE! “
This cry full of wonder breaks the silence of the quiet morning of May 6, 1685, the second Sunday of Easter, and attracts the attention of the few people gathered in prayer in front of the majestic image of Our Lady, painted in red, with St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony, the Abbot on the sides, on a pylon near Sommariva Bosco, on the road leading to Caramagna, a small town in Italy. It is the day of the feast of St. John in Porta Latina.
The notarial deeds, which are found in the Archbishop’s Archives of Turin (Vol. X Codex de Diversis), report the descriptions of the eyewitnesses made in front of the notary “by the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Mr. Michele Beggiami, by grace of God and the Apostolic See Archbishop of Turin, officially delegated “.
A certain Carlo Antonio Ferrerio, from the diocese of Asti, was heading for the Sanctuary of the Moretta to fulfill a vow, together with his relative Andrea Rosso, blind and unable to walk. They stopped in front of the chapel of the Madonna, at the exit of Sommariva, to rest and to pray. After a short prayer, Andrea found himself healed, shouts at the miracle and immediately continues the journey to the Sanctuary of Moretta to thank the Virgin Mary. The few people present rush to notify the parish priest, but when the authorities arrive on the spot they found no longer the small party with Andrea Rosso.
The news of the extraordinary event spreads in a flash, and people flocked numerous and curious. The next morning, the whole population is in movement. It is market day in Sommariva; from Caramagna, from Racconigi, from Carmagnola, from Ceresole and from all the surrounding area, numerous sellers and buyers flock, also attracted by the desire to know and to see something concerning the recent prodigy. Don Cesare Gargano, from nearby Ceresole, also comes on foot, to Sommariva, reciting his breviary. At a certain point a beautiful brunette girl approaches him who asks him, in the harsh dialect of the place:
“A và-lu chièl a la Madòna d’san Giuvàn?” (Are you going to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of St. John?).
The priest replies perplexed and amazed at the question: “And why are you asking me?”.
Then the girl, always in dialect, explains: “Because yesterday I performed a miracle for a blind man”.
The good curate is appalled, also because the girl disappears immediately, in the morning light; then he hastens to inform the authorities of Sommariva, and everyone runs before the Image of the Madonna.
“And here – the Accounts narrates – the sacred Image in which everyone had their eyes fixed, almost became alive, suddenly the face changes color: it becomes pale, then vermilion, then lit as if from embers, especially on the left cheek, which presents in all its fullness to those present, and on the forehead, in the middle of which appears a vein of the thickness a little less than a finger, swollen and red, as of a person moved by great indignation. These changes alternate for perhaps a quarter of an hour, and are accompanied by others no less distinct and admirable. The eyes of the painting moves in their orbits, especially the left eye that turns all its black from the side of the nose, now from that of the corresponding ear, now towards the upper eyelid, now towards the lower one, hiding it halfway. And this for three or four times in the aforementioned space of time, while the pupil itself remains in the middle of the eye; and then one could see the face of the Virgin alters, pale and almost vanished from the space of half of the Hail Mary, then returning to her original appearance … “.
The extraordinary events continue in the following days, and miraculous healings begin; the locals and the surrounding area are in unrest. The facts are interpreted differently: for some they are a sign of divine blessing, for others they are healthy warnings and admonitions. In the face of these events, a process is immediately instituted, led by a commission headed by a delegate of the Bishop of Turin, as reported by the notarial deeds cited.
The ancient image of the Madonna of San Giovanni (Our Lady of St. John) portrays the Most Holy Virgin, dressed in red, with a white coat, in the act of uncovering, with the right hand, the face of the Child, lying on his knees, on top of a red cloth; with her left hand she holds a book resting on her chest and observes, with a sweet and loving gaze, the face of the Child.
Great celebrations were made on the occasion of the first coronation of the image, on September 21, 1785, and even more on the occasion of the second coronation, by the hand of Card. Alimonda, Archbishop of Turin, on May 6, 1885.
The Sanctuary, a splendid monument of the Piedmontese Baroque, was erected following the first miracle of 6 May 1685, by popular will and gratitude to the Virgin, by municipal ordinance (8 July 1685). It was built on the ancient chapel that enclosed the pylon, designed by the architect Michelangelo Garoé. Behind the high altar one can still admire the miraculous image preserved as it was originally.
Sources and Photos:
RIVISTA MARIA AUSILIATRICE 2000-5 – autore Don Mario Morra SDB
Cf. Tullio Locatelli, Il Santuario della Madonna di Sommariva del Bosco (Pinerolo 1984)