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The apparition of our lady of Caravaggio to giovannetta vacchi in Italy 1432, healing stream, miracles, cures, St Charles Borromeo


FEAST DAY - MAY 26, 1432

In 1432, the Mother of God appeared in a vision to a sick peasant woman and pointed out to her a healing stream, where the woman was cured and many other miracles and cures were effected.

The present church was initiated by Saint Charles Borromeo; the entrance is an arch on which stand statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Giovannetta, the woman she helped at the origin of the shrine.

The story of this title of Our Lady begins in the first half of the 15th century.

Giovannetta, pious daughter of Pietro Vacchi, intended to become a nun, but her father had a different idea; to please him, she married Francesco Varoli, a farmer. The marriage was unhappy – Francisco was not a nice fellow and made life miserable for his wife. On May 26, 1432, although Giovannetta was not feeling well, Francesco sent her out to the fields to cut grass for his cattle. After gathering a large bundle of fodder, she sat down to rest; perhaps she dozed a bit, for when she lifted her head, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood before her and told the woman to be of good heart, her troubles would soon be over. Jesus was displeased by the sins of the people, but Giovannetta could obtain mercy for them if they repented and changed their ways – otherwise Christ would punish them all. Mary also said she wished a church built in that spot in her honour – she charged Giovannetta to make known her wishes to all the people and promised if they obeyed, she would bless them with many favours and miracles; then she disappeared. But as a memento of her appearance Our Lady left behind the imprint of her feet on a stone upon which she had stood, and from beneath the stone a spring of pure water gushed out.

Giovannetta hurried to Caravaggio, narrating the apparition to everyone and the things the Virgin, Our Lady of Caravaggio, had told her; few believed her; in fact, they greeted her story with scorn and derision. A little later, some of the people chanced to bathe in the stream flowing from beneath the rock were amazed to find their aches and pains mysteriously vanished. Others followed and the same thing happened to them. Then, they remembered Giovannetta’s story of the apparition and began to believe her. The incident spread like wild fire, and the people, assisted by Filberto Marie Visconti, Duke of Milan, built a shrine on the place of the vision.

As great crowds came to the shrine to offer homage to Our Lady, the shrine became too small to accommodate them; so, in 1575, Saint Charles Borromeo employed the celebrated architect, Pellegrino Pellegrini to enlarge it. Later additions and changes were further made, resulting in the present sanctuary.

A statue of the Virgin of Our Lady of Caravaggio was placed in the enlarged sanctuary – this statue depicts Our Lady blessing Giovannetta; it supposedly occupies the very spot on which the Virgin stood during the apparition; and from beneath Mary’s feet, the little stream of water still flows.

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