A basilica in Italy marks the spot of a bloody episode in early Church history — and is home to an image of Mary once lost in the hills for centuries.
On Sept. 15, a Catholic shrine in the small hilltop town of Lenola celebrates the local feast day of Our Lady of the Hill.
The day, marked by Masses and — in pre-coronavirus times — a procession, honors the day a young man repented and converted after a murderous plot, before finding a centuries-old miraculous fresco of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus.
Servant of God Gabriele Mattei and his two friends found the image, covered by rubble and thick brambles and plants, on Sept. 15, 1602, with directions from Our Lady.
The frescoed image is believed to be from the third century AD. It was painted on the wall of a cave where Christians took refuge while hiding from the persecution of the Emperor Decius.
The Christians prayed in their makeshift shrine, but their hiding spot was discovered. The Roman soldiers killed them all and left their bodies strewn about the cave.
Other Christians in the area heard about the massacre and went up to the cave with a monk to give them a proper burial.
Read more at Catholic News Agency