Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona: the astounding cliff side church

0

Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona is a breathtaking church built on the side of a mountain in Italy. To be more precise, that mountain is Monte Baldo and the closest village is Spiazzi, which is actually 1 hour by car away from Verona.

adonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona
Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona

The story of the sanctuary

According to medieval documents, some hermits started living here around the year 1000. The only way to reach it at the time was a narrow and dangerous path. According to a legend, the current Sanctuary was built in 1522 after a miracle. When Rhodes was invaded by the Muslim army of Suleiman II, an angel brought the island statue of the Virgin here in Spiazzi. Actually, this is not true. The Pietà sculpture at the center of the apse was an ex-voto by a nobleman, Ludovico di Castelbarco, in 1432. The material is from the Verona area and the shape was in vogue in the Alps region in that period.

Over the centuries, the church was restored or rebuilt several times. In 1922, the fourth centenary of the “appearance of the statue”, the facade was embellished with statues by the sculptor Ugo Zannoni and the street was improved to facilitate the pilgrims passage. It was partly rebuilt again in 1975.

Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona
Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona

How to reach Madonna della Corona near Verona

In order to reach Madonna della Corona Sanctuary, you have 3 possibilities:

1 From Spiazzi by foot (about 25 minutes downhill)

Go to Spiazzi by car, park there and have a 25-minute walk downhill along the asphalt road or the staircase. Consequently, the road back is uphill. Along this road you will spot the Passion of Christ stations: the bronze sculptures depicting the Via Crucis stations are by Raffaele Bonente (and these statues took him more than 30 years of work). Along this street, you will also bump into the famous Alpacas compound. See below.

2 From Spiazzi by shuttle bus

Also, go to Spiazzi, park the car and take the shuttle bus (€1.8 for one ride, €3 roundtrip) leading (in a few minutes) to a stopping place close to the Sanctuary. From there is 2 minutes by foot. Warning: the service is available every day during the Summer. As for the other periods, it is usually available only on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

3 The long and winding road

Take the road for pilgrims, called Sentiero della Speranza, Hope Path, departing from the village of Brentino Belluno. You can see the precise departing point on Google Maps typing “Sentiero del Pellegrino”. The climb (about 600 meters elevation) requires about 2 hours (the distance is 2.5 km), partly made of steps and partly of steep traits. I would only suggest it to trained people with appropriate shoes. Apparently (I chose option 1, but I asked a friend), the path is very beautiful, in a suggestive natural scenery and providing you with incredible views. At some point, the asphalt road crosses the pilgrims path. Filippo took the stairs down for a while to see the church from a different perspective.

Filippo exploring
Filippo exploring

My experience

My nephew Filippo and I went to the Sanctuary on a weekday at the end of June. Despite being a sunny day, the air was humid, so that the sky wasn’t clear. Pity! We both agreed that the views would have been way better in a vivid sky day. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Spiazzi by car from Padova.

We found the last free space in the parking lot and we looked around to find the path to the church. The indications are not super clear and immediately visible. The path we chose starts just before the parking lot, on the right, past the small square (where you can find a couple of restaurants and cafès). It took us 20-25 minutes to reach the Madonna della Corona Sanctuary by foot, including a couple of stops to take pictures.

Me on the staircase of Madonna della Corona Sanctuary
Me on the staircase of the Sanctuary

The Alpacas

This was a bit of a disappointment for Filippo and I. Judging by the comments of previous visitors or bloggers, we were expecting a farm where you could get in, pet the alpacas, take some pics and possibly even purchase some alpaca wool items. But the contrary would better describe the situation. It’s basically a stall selling alpaca scarves (beautiful, nothing to say). On the day we went there, there was no one around so the lady was closely watching us and we could not approach the alpacas, that were behind a high fence, with the writing: private property.

By the way, these alpacas are all pregnant females, so it would be better to leave them alone anyways. The only way to reach the border of the fence would be to pass next to the stall, where the lady stops you to ask you if you want to buy something. So I can only guess that all the people who took close photos of the alpacas have purchased an item, or they went on a busy day and passed without being noticed or… they’re less shy than me. I disliked the idea of asking the lady to see the alpacas without purchasing anything or… without having a toddler with us, even if Filippo and I would have been happy as kids to have the chance to pet the alpacas.

adonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona
adonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona

The Sanctuary

The view is spectacular. This incredibly beautiful church, all in shades of white and pink, seems suspended between earth and sky, nestled into the vertical cliff, overlooking the valley below.

Before the last steps leading to the church entrance, you will find a stone gallery (it was cut in the rock in 1922, replacing a flight of steep stairs), a café, toilets, and the vicarage. Since lunchtime was running out, we stopped at the café to have a sandwich and a soft drink before proceeding. The café is quite simple, with a nice outside terrace.

Once you arrive at the final staircase, you can deviate halfway up to get in the Chapel of Confessions, where you access the Scala Santa, Holy Staircase, representing the final steps of Jesus to reach the seat of his trial.

The interior of the main Sanctuary is surprising. I didn’t though, maybe I’m naive, that the church was partially built-in into the mountain. I just thought it was leaned against it. But no. Two walls were actually made from the mountain slope itself. Very suggestive.

Rock wall inside the church
Rock wall inside the church

Along the right wall of the Sanctuary, you can admire 167 different ex-votos. The most ancient one dates back to 1547 and it depicts the miraculous rescue of a woman who was about to drown in the Adige river in Verona. But there’s also a painting donated by the village of Bardolino in 1665: the Madonna granted them the grace of rain after a long drought period.

Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona
Madonna della Corona Sanctuary near Verona

When you get out, the sight towards the Adige Valley is beautiful, although slightly ruined by the presence of the motorway.

Madonna della Corona Sanctuary

Vicolo Santuario, 1, 37020 Ferrara di Monte Baldo VR

Opening hours:
November – March 8am – 6pm
April – October 7am – 7.30 pm

Recommendations:
As I always say for churches, remember to dress properly and, if you happen to arrive upon Mass time, respect the service. Better to wait until the end to visit the church and take pictures.

Official website: You can find more info at www.madonnadellacorona.it/en