The Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati also known as the sanctuary of Maria Santissima di Capocroce is a Catholic place of worship in Frascati, belonging to the metropolitan city of Rome, Italy and to the suburbicarian seat of Frascati.
The Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati is dedicated to the Virgin Mary since, during the Sack of Rome in 1527, according to tradition on October 29, the Madonna stopped the lansquenets, who were going to raid Frascati, appearing and saying these words: “Back, o fanti, this land it’s mine”, saving Frascati from safe looting. Two years later a small chapel was built which could accommodate up to ten people. After 1612 the sanctuary was built, inaugurated on May 5, 1613. The area of the church is located at the intersection of via Tuscolana and via Gregoriana (directed to Colonna), hence the name of “Capocroce”.
Originally in place of the church there was a shrine owned by the Confraternita del Gonfalone, built around the fourteenth century, and described by Seghetti as follows:
“The Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati had the proportions of a small oratory capable of 10 people, it belonged to the Confraternity of the Gonfalone, which, despite the constraints, made every effort to officiate there on some solemnities: it was sold together with a small strip of land at the price of scudi 200 to the lawyer Gerolamo De Rossi, who replaced the original chapel at a short distance from today’s modest but decent church, known as the Madonna di Capocroce.”
Girolamo De Rossi, a consistorial lawyer, in 1610 wanted to replace the chapel with a larger church, which was completed and inaugurated on 5 May 1612 in the presence of the cardinal bishop Giovanni Evangelista Pallotta.
On January 29, 1944, an American air raid completely destroyed the church, sparing only the facade, which dates back to 1600 like the bells; also the eighteenth-century image of the Madonna was found under the rubble. The oratory was commissioned by Pope Pius X. The Salesians have been in Capocroce since 1912, from the following year they led the oratory which they left in 1995; the priests of the Suburbicarian See of Frascati took their place. On 8 September 1947 the reconstruction of the sanctuary began, which was completed seven years later, when on 28 April 1954 the bishop Biagio Budellacci consecrated it.
Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati inside is the Annunciation by the artist Mario Titi. Next to the church there is the large theater of Capocroce and the Casa del Clero, with the offices of the diocesan Caritas.
History of Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati
The Sanctuary of Maria Santissima di Capocroce (The Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati) is a story of gratitude.
As often happens in history, also the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima di Capocroce was born from a sacred legend linked to a miracle: during the frightening Sack of Rome in 1527, Rome was sacked by the army of the lansquenets , mercenary soldiers of the German Legions. Frascati was trembling for the impending arrival of the hungry and frustrated army, in fact it happened that when the commander did not pay the troops he authorized them to wreak havoc on the cities he passed through.
Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati – the Madonna would have foiled the attack of the barbarian wave and the certain destruction of Frascati with the words “Back, o infantrymen, this land is mine”: this is how two years later, to celebrate the miracle, a small chapel was built which however, it could contain only a dozen faithful.
In 1612 the chapel of devotion for the escaped raid became a sanctuary.
The church is in Baroque style, characteristic of the seventeenth century.
The Original Shrine the Sanctuary was Later Built
Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati – The small aedicule was built around the fourteenth century. The Confraternity of the Gonfalone officiated there only on some solemnities, and was sold together with a small strip of land at the price of 200 scudi. The consistorial lawyer Gerolamo De Rossi bought the primitive chapel which, replacing the previous one, became the church of the Madonna di Capocroce.
Pius X wanted the oratory where the Salesians settled until 1995. The Church still retains the characteristic Baroque style of the seventeenth century. Inside is The Annunciation by Mario Titi, a painter from Frascati, the first exponent of the “La colata” technique, who over the years made numerous contributions with his art in the churches and museums of the Castelli Romani and Lazio.
Our Lady of Capocroce
Inside the Sanctuary of Capocroce, Frascati we find The Annunciation by Mario Titi, a painter from Frascati, who has made numerous contributions with his art in the churches and museums of the Castelli Romani and Lazio, the first exponent of the “La colata” technique.
The Madonna di Capocroce was unable to avoid the bombing of 1944, when the Americans completely destroyed the church. Yet even on this terrible occasion, the facade of the original church from 1600 was saved and also the image of the Madonna from 1700, which was found under the rubble. After centuries of prayers and gratitude, there are places that are charged with special energies, and with strong expectations on the part of the community that lives them.
Places that save and are saved.
Sanctuaries and churches are sometimes built as gigantic Ex voto, for the grace received, dangers escaped, in a game between auspice for the future and gratitude for the past, which characterizes all religions anthropologically.
The apotropaic function, that is, of exorcization, and that of gratitude for an imminent tragedy that has not subsequently occurred, are fundamental in the life of men, of countries and in their tradition. It is always a precious teaching to note how man manages to mediate between a destiny that is unaware of him in his condition of “powerlessness” in the face of “the inevitable”, and the hope of coming to terms with it, through prayer, faith and the construction of fascinating places of worship like this one.
The early history of the picture is unknown, as is the name of its painter. In 1527, the date when first it attained celebrity, the fresco figured on a wall surrounding a vineyard situated a short distance below the location of the present church. As long as the oldest citizens could remember, the painting had been on the wall; they had often paused before it to murmur a “Hail Mary” or utter an ejaculatory prayer; but their knowledge of its history went no further, nor indeed had there hitherto been any special reason for inquiring more minutely as to its origin.
One of the results of the struggle between the Emperor Charles V. and the French monarch, Francis I., in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, was the pillage of Rome by the licentious and infuriated troops of the Constable Bourbon. His army, which was composed chiefly of Lutheran soldiers from Germany, ravaged the Eternal City during two months with a destructive fury unequaled by that of either the Goths or the Vandals of an earlier period.
Glutted with the vengeance wreaked upon Rome, the German adventurers turned their arms upon the environing towns. Already a number of these had fallen victims to carnage and ruin, when on Sunday, May I, 1527, the menacing hordes betook themselves to Frascati. Their approach was visible afar off to the inhabitants of the mountain town; and, although ultimate security from the conquering soldiers was scarcely anticipated, both civil and religious authorities at once took such measures as were deemed most opportune.
The former disposed their inconsiderable forces so as to offer a desperate, if ineffectual resistance to the pillagers; the latter, accompanied by the women and children, repaired to the churches and sought the aid of Heaven. Terrified mothers clasped their little ones to their bosoms, and poured out their hearts in passionate entreaty to that Heavenly Mother who on occasion can be “terrible as an army in battle-array.”
In the meantime the enemy had almost reached the entrance of the town. Already their fierce yells of anticipated triumph resounded along the mountain side, and Frascati’s annihilation was apparently at hand. Suddenly the onward march of the adventurers was checked. Just as their leading files reached the wall whereon was depicted the Virgin and Child, the lips of the painted Virgin opened and, issuing therefrom came a voice of irresistible power and majesty. Dominating the shouts of the advancing multitude as a thunderclap dominates the pattering of raindrops or the whistling of the tempest, was heard the command of Our Lady of Capocroce: “Back, soldiers! This land is mine!”
History of the Picture of Our Lady of Capocroce
The effect was instantaneous. Not a soldier dreamt of disobeying the imperious mandate. Turning about, they rushed from Frascati toward Rome with an ardor far greater than had marked their recent advance. The terror to which the citizens had shortly before been a prey seemed to have fallen upon their dreaded enemy; and with frightened shrieks of “Back! Back!” the troops fled in utter confusion and rout from the privileged town which Mary had called her own.
Not on this occasion alone did Our Lady of Capocroce prove the truth of her words, “This land is mine.” Frequently during the intervening centuries has she manifested her special regard for Frascati. To her alone do the citizens attribute their singular preservation from the earthquakes which from time to time have carried consternation and death to the neighboring districts. To her peculiar tenderness for this home of her miraculous image do they owe, they will assure you, their immunity from that terrible scourge, the cholera, which, despite the purity of the mountain air, has often devastated towns in their immediate vicinity.
Only twenty-seven years ago Albano, distant four or five miles from Frascati, lay prostrate under this disease. Victims fell daily in increasing numbers, not in Albano alone, but throughout its environs. Like a monstrous dragon the epidemic raged on all sides of the town save one. Frascati was absolutely untouched. The land is Mary’s, and the dread ministers of divine vengeance cease their havoc at Our Lady of Capocroce’s Shrine.
It will readily be believed that, after the prodigy of 1527, extraordinary veneration was accorded the miraculous image. A chapel was constructed at the entrance of the town, the picture was placed therein, and this little sanctuary soon became the favorite resort of all who had petitions to offer to the August Mother of God. Of the incalculable number of spiritual and temporal favors won by the citizens of Frascati through the devotion manifested in that hallowed spot, no earthly record has been kept; but tradition testifies to the unfailing efficacy of prayers uttered before the miraculous picture, and a cult that has endured through three centuries and upward must needs have been fostered by signal graces thereby received.
The first chapel in which the picture was enshrined was a modest structure, which, as the years sped by, grew too small to accommodate the increasing numbers of Mary s clients; and, in 1611 a second striking miracle led to the building of the present ampler and more beautiful church. In that year a pious and wealthy Roman priest, Jerome de Rossi-Cavoletti, was one morning celebrating Mass at the altar of the miraculous picture. Just after the Consecration the Sacred Host left his hands and disappeared. He looked for It with scrupulous care, questioned the server; but all in vain: he could not find It.
Trembling with apprehension, he examined his conscience; and as it did not accuse him of either guilt or irreverence, he turned his tear-filled eyes on Our Lady’s picture, and besought his tender Mother to relieve his distress. As he gazed he heard an interior voice saying: “Jerome; you are rich in the goods of this world. Look at this humble chapel.
Is it worthy of the Queen of Heaven? “He understood at once, and forthwith vowed to replace the little structure with a large and beautiful church in honor of Mary. Hardly had he formulated his vow when the Sacred Host, vainly sought for a few moments before, reappeared upon the altar. De Rossi accomplished his vow by causing the present spacious church to be built, and he added a large dwelling-house for the clergy who should be charged with the care of Our Lady’s Shrine. The new church was consecrated in 1613.
Just a century later, in the year 1713, occurred another public prodigy attesting the Blessed Virgin’s special predilection for her children of Frascati. A large number of people were one day assembled in the church, kneeling before the miraculous picture, some imploring Mary to grant them additional graces, others returning grateful thanks for favors and boons already procured.
Suddenly the religious silence reigning in the church was broken by a cry of warning issuing from the venerated picture. “Fly! Fly!” was the order; and, in obedience thereto, the crowd rushed at once to the doors. Scarcely had the last of the number crossed the threshold when the whole roof fell in, the vault, plaster, woodwork, rafters, all crashing down to the pavement. The timely warning had assuredly preserved all Our Lady’s clients from serious injury, and many of them from instant death.
On October 28th of that year (1713), Frascati beheld a signal honor paid to its venerated image. The Chapter of St. Peter, of the Vatican, on that day visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Capocroce and, amid the enthusiastic rejoicing of the people, fixed above the miraculous picture a magnificent golden crown. In 1863 this same Chapter of St. Peter gave additional evidence of their devotion to the Virgin of Capocroce by placing above the picture two angels in gilded copper, holding over the head of Our Lady a still larger and more splendid crown.
The last public prodigy recorded of this miraculous picture occurred in 1796. Italy as well as the rest of Europe was to see, at the end of the eighteenth century, evil days – sacrilegious violation of laws human and divine, a very delirium of impiety, occasioning abundant tears and working damage irreparable. As if to assure her devoted children of her continued protection, and to fortify their souls against the trials to come, Our Lady of Capocroce once more gave astounding proof of the truly miraculous character of her venerated picture. In the presence of immense throngs of spectators, the eyes of the painted Virgin were seen alternately to close and open, – closing it may have been to shut out the spectacle of the world’s iniquity, opening to beam in loving compassion on her faithful servants gathered around her Shrine.
All this, and more, one learns in a visit to the church of the Theatine Fathers at Frascati; for on every side he beholds ex-votos attesting innumerable cures of the blind, the deaf, the afflicted of every description, cures wrought throughout the centuries by the benignant and powerful Lady of Capocroce. Kneeling at the famous Shrine and gazing upon the marvel working picture above us, we feel that this is the sight best worth seeing in all the Tusculan district; and we wonder whether Longfellow had in mind Our Lady’s words, “Back, soldiers! This land is mine!” when he wrote:
This is indeed the Virgin Mary’s land.
And then comes the consoling thought that, although we must soon bid adieu to Our Lady of Capocroce, never again, it may be, to view her miraculous picture, we may still enshrine in our heart an image of that Heavenly Mother as beneficent as this wonderful fresco before us. Not less confident in Our Lady’s power and goodness than are these Frascati peasants, who kneel beside us, we shall treasure our heart-portrait of Mother and Son with lifelong fidelity and loving tenderness; hopeful that it, too, will warn us of peril and preserve us from danger, – hopeful above all that when, at the dread moment of death, Satan and his minions advance to their final assault, we may see them routed by our Mother’s command: “Back, demons! This soul is mine!”
Annual Feast Day
Piazzale Capocroce, 3,
00044, Frascati, Rome, Italy
Tel : +39 06 942 0394
How to reach the Sanctuary
Giovan Battista Pastine International Airport of Rome, the capital of Italy is the nearby airport to the Sanctuary.
Frascati Transit Station in Frascati, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy is the nearby transit station to the Sanctuary.