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  • Chiesetta di Piedigrotta

    By Anthony Parente

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    Italy is blessed with many beautiful basilicas and churches. One of the most beautiful and unique churches is in the town of Pizzo Calabro along the Costa degli Dei in Calabria. Next to the famous Bronzi di Riace statues (Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, Reggio Calabria) la Chiesetta di Piedigrotta is the second most visited tourist attraction in Calabria. What makes it unique is the history and legend surrounding the church.

    As legend tells us it was during the 1600's a ship encountered a violent storm off the coast of Pizzo Calabro. The captain and the crew took shelter from the winds and rain in the captain's cabin. In the room there was a painting of the Madonna di Piedigrotta and they all started to pray to the Madonna asking her to protect them and ensure their safety. In return for her intercession, they would erect and dedicate a chapel to the Madonna. The ship did not survive as it sank to the bottom of the sea. Fortunately, the sailors were able to swim to shore. The painting also survived as it washed up to the shore along with a bell that was dated 1632. The crew kept their promise and dug out a cave in the rocks for a chapel to be created in honor of the Madonna. Within the chapel they placed the sacred image.

    During the latter half of the 19th Century Angelo Barone, a local artist, was fascinated with the story behind the chapel and dedicated his life to enlarging the cave and creating a much larger church. Each day he would use his pickaxe to dig through the sedimentary rock to enlarge the existing cave and carved out additional rooms. Within the cave you will also see hand carved statues representing the life of Jesus and the Saints. Following the death of Angelo his son Alfonso took over and enhanced on what his father started creating additional statues and adding frescoes to the walls.

    Unfortunately, in the 1960's the church was subject to vandalism and several statues were broken. Not long after this event Giorgio Barone, a descendant of Angelo, returned to Pizzo. He visited the church and was heart-broken to see what had happened and how his ancestors work had been ruined. He decided to stay and restore the church and his family's legacy.

    On the top of the church is an iron cross and statue of the Madonna and Child overlooking the sea protecting the seafarers. It also offers picturesque views of the coast as well as a view of the island of Stromboli. During the day sunlight penetrates through the openings enhancing the view by adding colors and shades to the walls and sculptures.

    Above the area of the church is a parking lot. There is a fee to park. From there you will walk down the steps to get to the entrance. Keep in mind the church is located on the shore and is affected by the tide and weather. Before deciding to go you should visit to ensure the church is open.


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