Shrine of Madonna di Ripoli or della Serra

A stone’s throw from the San Benedetto Val di Sambro railway station, on the direct Bologna–Florence line, the beautiful Ripoli church soars on the promontory overlooking the Sette torrent valley. This is one of the oldest places of worship in the Bolognese Apennines, with a history dating back to about the year 1000, when the Virgin Mary appeared to two shepherds and asked them to build a church on the site of the miraculous event. Inside the building there are two icons of great symbolic and historical value: a polychrome terracotta Virgin and Child (1603) and a canvas depicting Our Lady of the Rosary, considered by many to be the original image carried in procession in 1855 to entreat the end of the tragic cholera epidemic that spread throughout the Bologna area. Since then devotion to the Mother of God has grown and the sanctuary has become the reference point for the whole Setta Valley. Pilgrimages have multiplied and this has led the faithful to expand the church to its present form. Inside, in addition to several works of sacred art and furniture of great value, there is a precious organ of the latter nineteenth century by the Orsi Masters of Bologna, inserted in a splendid wooden choir made by local artisans. The façade and the handsome bell tower, designed by the architect Rivani, date back to the end of the Second World War. The sanctuary celebrates Pentecost every year on the last Sunday of August. The recurrent appearance of the Virgin Mary to mountain child-shepherds is symbolic of how the divine prefers the innocent gaze of children to send a message rather than that of many “intelligent and astute”. Today this message seems even stronger and invites us to ponder the purity deeply challenged by a society completely addicted to ephemera. The return to simplicity is a small miracle, a conquest that is by no means a foregone conclusion. For this reason, the Via Mater Dei Cammino, for many, may be a true revelation.

Open daily: 8am–8pm

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