St Abercius Bl Albert of Bologna St Alexander of Edessa St Althryda St Anastasius of Brescia St Aquila of Egypt Bl Arnaldo Serra and Companions St Asterius of Edessa St Austregisilus of Bourges (c 551-624) Bishop St Basilla of Rome St Baudelius of Nîmes St Codrato
Santa Maria delle Grazie / Holy Mary of the Graces in Stia, Arezzo, Italy (1428) – 20 May:
It was the year 1428 and Mona Giovanna one day, taking advantage of a moment of clear weather, left her cottage to dedicate herself to the work in the fields. Suddenly, she was surprised by a strong storm and, unable to return to her home, she found a refuge in a cavern covered with tree trunks, located above a white boulder. Having reached the shelter, Giovanna began to pray. Suddenly she was enveloped in a light of exceptional splendour and a celestial figure of a woman of extraordinary majesty and beauty appeared to her, placing her foot on the white boulder. Giovanna felt and understood that the Lady was the Mother of God. The Virgin spoke to her maternally saying:
“If the people want to remove many great punishments and misfortunes, they will, in my honour, build here, a Church in the place chosen by myrself and once it is built, that they pay homage and veneration to my Son and I, with constant prayers.
The place where Giovanna had taken refuge continued to shine with a very bright light, when a shepherd, Pietro Campodonico, approaching saw the miracle in person. Shortly after Giovanna repeated the narration to Messer Luca, Parish Priest of Stia, who was quick to believe her, knowing Giovanna’s goodness and simplicity. Immediately he went in procession with the Parishioners to the place where the miracle had happened. Feelings of religious piety awoke in all the people of the countryside, spreading not only in the nearby parishes but in the entire Casentino valley, up to the Cities of Arezzo, Florence and Siena. The construction of the Church, begun by the unanimous will of authority (including “Messer Luca lo Pievano” from Stia and Conte Neri from Porciano) and by the people, with the offerings and gifts left by the devotees. It was completed on 8 September 1432. In September 1474 a sudden fire totally destroyed the building with all the furnishings and images. The Church was immediately rebuilt, assisted by the offerings of the faithful. In 1490 the building was already rebuilt as we now see it – the Sanctuary was called from the beginning Santa Maria delle Grazie:.
On 20 May of each year the faithful of the neighbouring areas come in procession to celebrate the feast of the apparition. The Church is an elegant edifice of Florentine architecture, preceded by a portico on the left of the facade, a three-light sailed bell tower in sandstone. The interior consists of a single nave with a large presbytery. Two carved stone Altars lean against the side walls, of which the one on the left of the XV century is remarkable, finely carved. On the left wall there is an octagonal stone pulpit, supported by two shelves. The presbytery, a work of artistic value of the XVI century, square in shape, is framed in the façade by two pillars and a stone archivolt, decorated with raised foliage, finely worked and is enclosed inside by a stone cornice, decorated with a series of 30 enamelled terracotta cherub heads, interspersed with 5 coats of arms of the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital. In the pendentives are the cylindrical reliefs of the 4 Evangelists, also in glazed terracotta.
Both the reliefs and the glazed frieze are works of Robbian art, from Andrea’s workshop (1435-1528), to refer to the beginning of the XVII century. In the underlying rooms, in the shape of a rib, there are two large Robbians depicting the apparition of the Madonna to Blessed Giovanna and to the crib, on the right and left. Under the Robbiane school there is an inlaid wooden seat from the 15th century. In the centre of the presbytery, the high Altar, in worked marble, rises above the boulder where the Virgin appeared.
St Abercius Bl Albert of Bologna St Alexander of Edessa St Althryda St Anastasius of Brescia St Aquila of Egypt Bl Arnaldo Serra and Companions St Asterius of Edessa St Austregisilus of Bourges St Basilla of Rome St Baudelius of Nîmes St Codrato Blessed Columba of Rieti OP (1467- 1501) Mystic