Frati Minori Conventuali - 87019 Spezzano Albanese (Cosenza)



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Sanctuary Madonna delle Grazie


Spezzano Albanese is a small pleasant and enjoyful town situated on a tableland surrounded by the buttresses of the Sila Greca, by the imposing Pollino chain and by the blue Ionian Sea.

Very wonderful and rich of events is its history that traces back to the old Calabrian land and from the neighbouring Albania. The first document, so far found, that is about Spezzano Albanese is a request asked by St. Augustine's hermits from Terranova da Sibari, in 1451, that they wanted to tidy up and live the ruined church of the "Blessed Virgin from Spezzano" . Perhaps and probably it was about a hermitage, around which also rose a "farmhouse" heavily populated by peasants in the princes' service from Bisignano, masters of this territory.

Spezzano's farmhouse, around 1471, year in which the scolars establish the date of the Albanian arrival, this place was repopulated by these refugees escaped from their birthplace after having fought with Skanderbeg, for about a quarter of a century against the Turkish invaders. A large number of refugees settled in the neighbouring San Lorenzo del Vallo, while other refugees nearby the existing Shrine.

The Albanian life in 'Spixana' ( in this way was called the small town by the Arbreshe) should be hard because of the economic instability, diseases, brigands, taxes and above all because of the Byzantine rite, disliked by the Latin clergy of the Diocese from Rossano. In this context of material and human poverty the tradition of Our Lady becomes part.

It is said that our Lady appeared to two little shepherds and one of these, thinking our Lady was made of blaster, he dared to hurt her by means of a bramble branch and this bramble made blood drops sprung that they struck him in his face producing in him blindness. Our Virgin after having granted sight to the little shepherd that he was imploring, she ordered in that place a temple was built. For this event Our Virgin is also called in Arbreshe "Shen Maria Mishi" (Virgin made of meat).

In the 17th century Spezzano was become a modest centre, considering that in 1607 St Peter and St Paul's church was opened to the cult and that in the half of the century it is mentioned about St John the Baptist ( Shenjanji) and St Mary of Costantinople. In spite of the presence of these other cult places, the real love for the Virgin from people of Spixana did not diminish, on the contrary she was elected the Patron of the small town.

Under Don Antonio Fronzino's Arrchiepiscopal (1763-1803), the Virgin from Spetiano took the name "S. Maria delle Grazie" while the statue that people take in procession was realized in Naples in 1789. Devotion to the Virgin from Spixana people and from the strangers was so strong and near the shrine there was a building where the hermits put up and to her dedicated themselves, sayng a prayer.

After the French revolution and the Napoleonic period, starts for the small town and its church a period of prosperity favoured by the Patron Saint.

Distinguished priests like Don Antonio Fronzini, Don Vincenzo M. Cucci, Don Paolo Nociti , the Guaglianone, Don Francesco Gullo, that's to say from the 17th century up to few years ago, gave brightness and made The Spixana's church more beautiful through their genius and their pastoral action.

Under Don Ciccio Gullo's Archiepiscopal on the 5th August 1951, with a solemn cerimony St Maria delle Grazie's church became Marian shrine: the place is a pleasant tableland surrounded by the green of the marvellous Spixana country.

The present stone avenue was carried out, as the scholar G. Angelo Nociti informs us (1832-1899) in a chronicle, in 1853.

Later on the holy building underwent changements as we can point out from the dates engraved on the marbles, situated on the frescos of the entrance or on the spiked gates: 1836 - 1914 - 1929.

Other works werw carried out in 1966, the year in which The Pilgrim's house was achieved, under the treatment of Orionini's fathers, thanks to the emigrants' contributions and to the free work offered by the skilled and local workers.

From the 16th February 1991 the Minor Friars of the Monatery from the Province of Calabria are present at the Shrine.
Father Tarcisio Plutino opened the way and remained there till october 1995.
Father Tadeus Wiczarsky,
Father Mario Brentazzoli,
Father Vincenzo Mangone,
Father Francesco Capparelli spent a short time at the Shrine.

At present live at the Shrine: Father Lorenzo Bergamin and Father Angelo Malachini.

Rector of the Shrine was appointed Father Nicola Criniti from 16/7/1993 and on 17th october 1995 was appointed, by the Arciepishop Mons. Cassone, Father Lorenzo Bergamin.

Francesco Marchianò
Traduzione a cura di Giovanni Pittari

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