Not far from Baragazza, at 719m above sea level, protected by Mount Tavianella, Boccadirio is enchanted silence and unspoiled nature: the only sounds are the roaring waters of the Rio D’Avena and the rustling of the forest in the wind. It is the most important sanctuary of the Bologna district after Madonna di San Luca and every year it is the destination of thousands of devout pilgrims. The first official documents date to the early 1600s and tell of the prodigious event on 6 July 1480 involving two young shepherds: Donato and Cornelia. The Virgin appeared to them as they grazed their sheep on the bank of the torrent where the high altar now stands. Mother Mary approached the two children who prayed to her in ecstasy, and ordered Donato to become a priest, Cornelia to become a nun, and to tell the people of Baragazza of the prodigy to encourage them to erect a temple in her honour, on the site of her apparition. The population fell to work and the first church was built. Twenty years later the faithful brought the holy image received as a gift from the visionary Sister Brigida, a name given to little Cornelia once she took her vows. Donato became the parish priest of Castiglione dei Pepoli and Cornelia was a nun for forty years in the convent of Santa Caterina da Siena, in Prato. Around the mid-sixteenth century, thanks to the generosity of the noble Pepoli family, the church was enlarged and embellished with artworks, becoming a symbol for the entire Apennines. At the end of the 1600s the loggia surrounding the beautiful cloister was completed around 1720 with the adjacent pilgrim accommodation. The precious sacred image by Andrea Della Robbia is a white majolica bas-relief on a blue background, depicting the Virgin and Child standing. At the end of the seventeenth century the religious ferment was such that huge crowds of believers invaded the shrine to pray there. Every year, during the May rogations, the icon returns to visit its people, and stays in the San Michele Arcangelo church in Baragazza until the Ascension. Since 1947, the Dehonian fathers have taken care of the sanctuary and of pilgrims arriving from all over the world to experience the sublime mysteries of Faith.
Open daily: 7:30am–12:30pm; 2:30pm–7:30pm