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🐊 Santuario delle Grazie (Shrine of Our Lady of Grace), Grazie, Italy
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Ⓒ Peter Callas 2019. All Rights Reserved. All photos taken in 2004 on a Canon G2
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Part 1 of 2
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This extraordinary Lombard Gothic style sanctuary, located in the small village of Grazie, 9 km from Mantova, is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Graces. It was built in the 14th century over a small shrine on an island in what was then part of Lago Superiore where an image of Mary that dates back to at least the 1200s was found. Legend has it that Francesco Gonzaga - the Mantovan condottiero - had the church built for the Virgin Mary in gratitude after the end to an epidemic of plague. A massive number of ex voto images and objects accumulated there in the intervening 7 centuries.
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Adding to these, a 16th century artist friar called Francesco di Acquanegra made 80 life-size, clothed papier-mâché mannequins representing people who had survived great perils thanks to the Virgin’s intercession. Today it seems a somewhat bizarre mix of arcane modes of worship and a putative museum of horrors - at first glance it reminded me of the Hell scenes in the Tiger Balm Gardens (Haw Par Villa) in Singapore. This is partly because the shrine is inky dark and it takes a while for it to sink in that although these look like hellish tortures, they are in fact ex votos. This is reinforced by the realisation that thousands of wax ex voto anatomical parts - hands, eyes, breasts and even bubonic plague buboes - snake decoratively over every available surface. One writer (morbidanatomy) described it as a mix “between a circus sideshow and a religious Disneyland, less fine art than folk art, full of ancient sacred expression in a language we [now] barely understand”.
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Soon after the completion of the basilica, pilgrimages to the church gradually increased in popularity - at first with poor people, but it later attracted nobles and even Emperor Charles V. The Napoleonic invasion in the early 19th century looted many votive offerings and other treasures. Its rich library was dispersed or destroyed. In 1812 much of the once much larger architectural complex was dismantled.


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🐊 Santuario delle Grazie (Shrine of Our Lady of Grace), Grazie, Italy
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Ⓒ Peter Callas 2019. All Rights Reserved. All photos taken in 2004 on a Canon G2
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Part 2 of 2
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An embalmed crocodile from the 15th or 16th century still hangs from the ceiling. Like dragons and snakes, crocodiles were associated with evil, The dangerous, though dead, animal chained up in the vault of the church is rendered harmless, imprisoning the evil it represents and at the same time exposing it as an ever present reminder, as though in a memory palace, to the faithful against spiritual weakness. It is reputed to have been an escapee from the exotic private zoo belonging to the Gonzaga, rulers of Mantova. Legend has it that two boatmen brothers were resting on the bank of the river when one of them was suddenly attacked by the crocodile. The other, asking for God's guidance, was miraculously armed with a knife and was able to kill the predator.
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Before the Napoleonic invasion, every inch of the surface of the inside of the church had been covered with all types of weapons, flags and banners. And many other objects aside from the crocodile hung from the ceiling, including full-sized boats.
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The middle part of the walls of the nave is lined with a full-length wooden structure, with eighty niches arranged in two parallel rows, where the mannequins in various poses representing episodes of danger averted by divine intercession are placed. Today only about forty statues remain.
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The statues were constructed of layers of paper and cloth hardened with plaster and painted with colorings, with honey added as a binder; subsequently, props were added that were created by making casts; also, in some cases, carved wood was used for the face, hands and feet, horsehair was used for hair. It has been discovered that the clothes were created from cotton fabric with hooks so that they could be applied to the statues. They date back only to the late 19th century and are probably replacements of the originals. Under the niches are the metopes explaining in vulgar Italian the grace received as depicted in the apposite tableau.


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🐊 Santuario delle Grazie (Shrine of Our Lady of Grace), Grazie, Italy
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Ⓒ Peter Callas 2019. All Rights Reserved. All photos taken in 2004 on a Canon G2
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Part 2 of 2
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
An embalmed crocodile from the 15th or 16th century still hangs from the ceiling. Like dragons and snakes, crocodiles were associated with evil, The dangerous, though dead, animal chained up in the vault of the church is rendered harmless, imprisoning the evil it represents and at the same time exposing it as an ever present reminder, as though in a memory palace, to the faithful against spiritual weakness. It is reputed to have been an escapee from the exotic private zoo belonging to the Gonzaga, rulers of Mantova. Legend has it that two boatmen brothers were resting on the bank of the river when one of them was suddenly attacked by the crocodile. The other, asking for God's guidance, was miraculously armed with a knife and was able to kill the predator.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Before the Napoleonic invasion, every inch of the surface of the inside of the church had been covered with all types of weapons, flags and banners. And many other objects aside from the crocodile hung from the ceiling, including full-sized boats.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The middle part of the walls of the nave is lined with a full-length wooden structure, with eighty niches arranged in two parallel rows, where the mannequins in various poses representing episodes of danger averted by divine intercession are placed. Today only about forty statues remain.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The statues were constructed of layers of paper and cloth hardened with plaster and painted with colorings, with honey added as a binder; subsequently, props were added that were created by making casts; also, in some cases, carved wood was used for the face, hands and feet, horsehair was used for hair. It has been discovered that the clothes were created from cotton fabric with hooks so that they could be applied to the statues. They date back only to the late 19th century and are probably replacements of the originals. Under the niches are the metopes explaining in vulgar Italian the grace received as depicted in the apposite tableau.


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Where? Belaggio, Province of Como, Lombardy, Italy
Date? July 6, 2018
Story? The only Belaggio we ever knew before this day was the hotel in Las Vegas with the dancing fountains. One of the most beautiful spots on Lake Como is the real Belaggio. We walked along a promenade and found this spot for a brief rest and just soaked it all in. What is your favorite town on Lake Como? Where did you base yourself?
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#pictureangels #picangels #travelnostalgia #belaggio #varenna #lakecomo #lombardy #provinceofcomo #italy #rentalcar #travelingwithkids #travelpictures #perfectshot #travelflashback #travelmemory
#travelphotography #travelling #travel #instatravel #trip #photooftheday #picoftheday #travelpic #travellife


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A highlight from my recent Lombard excursion — The magnificent Martinengo Mausoleum, a masterpiece which celebrates the beauty of death with ancient polychrome marbles and renaissance bronze reliefs.
#brescia #lombardy #Lombardia #travel #arthistory #death #mausoleum #burial #requiem #momentomori


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Discovering Culture through Beverage: 4 people, 1 car, 3,000 miles.


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Discovering Culture through Beverage: 4 people, 1 car, 3,000 miles.


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Discovering Culture through Beverage: 4 people, 1 car, 3000 miles.


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There are so many Italians treasures it’s hard to really put them order. But this piazzale ducale in the small town of Vigevano is one of them. Driving there will feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and you will have to walk a little ways to get this piazza. But once you’re there, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time 500 years. .



#vigevano #lombardy #igerslombardia #discoveritaly #travelitaly #italiantreasures #hiddenitaly #italiansecret #expatmom #expatlife #lifeineurope #traveleurope #winterineurope #familytrip #weekendtrip #passionpassport #welcometoitaly


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What would be the name of this picture? #streetphotography #lombardy #gardalake #lagodigarda


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