Madonna delle Grazie
18: The chapel of the “Madonna delle Grazie”
Just outside the walls of the ancient castle of Mattarella, by the side of the mule track towards the mountain, there was a little building where, at the end of the 16th century, a Madonna holding her Child was painted by an unknown artist. The chapel was called Madonna delle Grazie. On Bishop Odescalchi’s pastoral visit of 7 May 1658 it is mentioned as «a little devotional chapel sited on the summit of the ascent, covered by a little vault, with a stone floor and the image of the Blessed Virgin on the end wall». The Bishop wished to unite it to Monte Calvario with all the respective alms and revenues, ordering (28 September 1658) that the chapel take a more ample form by serving as the 6th Station, but keeping intact the ancient image of the Blessed Virgin.
The solution suggested was not deemed suitable and it was decided to build a proper Oratory. The surrounding land was purchased with the deed of 16 August 1659. In 1660 the foundation stone was laid. This was assigned to Captain Giuseppe della Silva, who had made the greatest donation. A small stone, now placed under the portico, mentions the occasion: «Nob. D. Cap. Joseph Silva primarium lapidem P. anno XDCLX» (The noble captain Giuseppe Silva laid the foundation stone in the year 1660). The building of this Oratory was finished in 1667 and the ancient image was left where it was.
Nevertheless, in order to avoid the unpleasantness of animals passing in front of the door of the little sanctuary, the public path was diverted by cutting through the rock at the back in order to make it pass behind the Oratory, and including it strictly within the perimeter of Monte Calvario. The first Mass was celebrated on 11 September of 1667. The decoration comprises a tondo depicting the Eternal Father in the centre of the dome which covers the body of the Oratory. This was frescoed by the painter Carlo Mellerio. A group of cherubs surrounding the ancient fifteenth century image, and another Eternal Father above a side door, are attributed to the painter Giovanni di Sampietro. A beautiful set of stucco work, and four statues of the same material, portraying the virtues of prudence, fortitude, humility and purity in their respective niches, modelled by the sculptors Carlo and Giovanni Giovanninetti about 1703, liven up the walls.
Il rosone al centro del catino della Madonna delle Grazie
opera del Pittore Carlo Mellerio
Alongside the north wall of the Oratory of Madonna delle Grazie leant a chapel which was to house one of the Stations of the Via Crucis. But it was never used for this purpose and served first as a sacristy of the Oratory, and subsequently it was used civilly for some years as the office of an official of the country of Calice and an elementary School.
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