Saturday, December 7, 2019, the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the canonical institution of the diocesan Shrine Rosa Mystica-Mother of the Church was officially proclaimed during the solemn Eucharistic concelebration presided over by the Bishop of Brescia, H.E. Archbishop Pierantonio Tremolada.
This historical passage was the result of a long ecclesial journey, initiated in these places for over 50 years, and even before at the Basilica of Montichiari: this journey, over time, has made these places an important spiritual point of reference and a place of pilgrimage for thousands of faithful from Italy and abroad.
The Bishop of Brescia reached this historic decision in constant consultation with the competent organs of the Apostolic See, and collecting the legacy of some important interventions of the predecessors who, starting from 2001, had authorized the celebration of public worship at the Fontanelle.
The two titles attributed to the diocesan Shrine, Rosa Mystica and Mother of the Church, are inseparably united by the tradition of prayer and piety with which the Mother of the Lord is invoked in these places and wherever this cult has spread, to support the journey of faith of the pilgrims, the convinced membership to the Church and sharing in its evangelizing mission, under the protection of the Lady who has always ensured Her maternal mediation.
The canonical recognition of the Sanctuary is therefore placed at the service of the missionary potential of these sacred places, in order to consolidate and increase the numerous spiritual fruits that have germinated here over time, as well as to offer the necessary pastoral care of pilgrims, especially through a conscious and fruitful celebration of the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, in view of a baptismal testimony ever more adherent to the demands of the Gospel and the fraternal love.
Rosa Mystica (Our Lady of Mystical Rose)
It was in 1531 that the Mother of God appeared to Juan Diego in Tepeyac Hill in Mexico and performed “the miracle of the roses” as proof to Bishop Zumarraga of her presence. Roses never grew on that rocky terrain, and certainly not in December. Moreover, when, in their surprise, the bishop’s attendants tried to pick and take some of them from his tilma, they could not do so because they became, as one author put it, “not roses that they touched, but as if they were painted or embroidered.” Indeed, they were “mystical roses” from the hands of the Mystical Rose herself.
The Litany of Loreto lists many of her titles, but there is a flower amongst them; the Mystical Rose. Truly, the rose is the queen of all the flowers, and there is something in the Heavenly arrangement of Its petals and Its coloring, there Is something In Its scent and symmetry, In the modesty of its green leaves, which makes it very special. It is the flower which captures the heart at nearly every stage of its growth, even when a bud. While it grows, Its petals gradually unfold as a token, as It were, of the blossoming of the lover’s love for his loved one.
Mary, the most beautiful of God’s creation, is indeed “the Incarnate Rose,” especially chosen for God’s garden. She is the “rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys”. There is no rose comparable to her and she has made Paradise ever so much more beautiful.
But if you call her a rose, white is the color of her purity; gold, the tint of her royalty; red, the hue of her suffering. The rose grows out from a stem of thorns and in the heart of this flower, the red of the Cross of her son was forming. Indeed, without thorns a rose is not a rose, and without the thorn of great suffering, Mary could not have become the Mystical Rose of God’s Paradise.
Apparitions of Sister Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa
Sister Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa (Mary Crucified of the Rose) was the foundress of the congregation of the Handmaids of Charity. She died in 1855, and was canonized a saint on June 12, 1954 by Pope Pius XII.
On April 14, 1944, Pierina, then 32 years old, was accepted as a postulant by the Handmaids of Charity. She never attained the profession of final religious vows at this religious institute. Even so, this congregation of women deeply influenced her spiritual growth during her formative years, continuing well into her later life. She was subsequently assigned as a nurse at the Children’s Hospital in the city of Brescia.
On December 1, 1944, Pierina contracted meningitis, and was taken to her religious order’s infirmary in Ronco for infectious isolation and medical treatment. The infirmary was located in a tiny section of the small Alpine village of Corteno Golgi, in the Brescia province. After twelve days in a comatose state Pierina was administered the Last Rites. Pierina recorded that beginning December 17, 1944, Sister Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa began to appear to her. Sister Maria held a vial of ointment that was given to her by Our Lady, and she anointed Pierina, saying comfortingly to her: “You will be cured, but you will have a heavy cross to bear.”
On November 2, 1946, Pierina was stricken by an intestinal occlusion and was again taken to the Civil Hospital in the Montichiari. In the night between November 23 and 24, 1946, at the peak of a very serious illness, Pierina declared that St. Maria Crocifissa di Rosa would have appeared to her, inviting her to turn her gaze to a point in the room: “Then I saw a beautiful Lady, nearly transparent, dressed in purple with a white veil that came down from head to foot, She held Her arms outstretched and I saw three swords stuck in Her chest in correspondence with the heart”.
St. Crocifissa di Rosa would have explained to her that the Lady was the Virgin who came to ask her for “prayers, sacrifices and sufferings” to atone for the sins of three categories of souls consecrated to God:
- for religious souls who betray their vocation,
- to repair the mortal sin of these souls,
- to repair the betrayal of Priests who make themselves unworthy of the sacred ministry.
The Saint would have then recommended the prayer for the sanctification of priests through the most effective means of prayer, sacrifice and penance.
Apparitions At Montichiari In 1947
Mary Appears as the “Rosa Mystica” In Montichiari
Montichiali with its suburb Fontanelle is a small town in Northern Italy, twenty kilometers from Brescia, the bishop’s town. It is situated in front of the Italian Alps in the fertile plain of the river Po. The name means in English, “Bright Mountains.” On a hill lies the old castle of St. Mary and the venerable Church of San Pancrazio.
Pierina Gilli was born on August 3, 1911, at Montichiari and worked as a nurse in the hospital there. The first time, the dear Mother of Christ appeared to her in a room of the hospital, in the spring of 1947. Our Lady, a beautiful woman, wore a violet dress and a white veil around her head. She was very sad, her eyes were filled with tears which fell to the floor. Her breast was pierced by three big swords. Our Lady said, “Prayer-Penitence-Expiation” and was silent.
On June 13, 1947, Our Lady appeared again in the hospital early one Sunday morning. This time she was dressed in white and instead of the three swords she had three roses: a white one, a red one, and a golden one. Pierina Gilli asked her, “Please tell me who you are.” The Lady answered, smiling, “I am the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of you.”
Here she paused, then she went on, “Our Lord sends me to bring a new Marian devotion for all male and female institutes, religious orders, and secular priests. I promise those religious institutes, orders, and secular priests who venerate me in this special way my special protection, an increase of spiritual vocations, fewer betrayed vocations, and great sanctity among the servants of God. I wish the 13th of each month to be celebrated as the day of Mary. On the twelve preceding days, special prayers of preparation should be said.”
With an expression of great joy, she went on, “On this day I shall send to these religious institutes, members of orders, and secular priests who have honored me in this way, a superabundance of graces and great sanctity. I wish the 13th of July of each year to be celebrated in honor of the ‘Rosa Mystica,’ the Mystical Rose.”
Pierina asked whether she would perform a miracle. Our Lady answered, “The most evident miracle will be the godly souls, who for some time, especially during the last war, became lukewarm, so that they were unfaithful or even betrayed their vocation, will cease to offend Our Lord gravely. By their great offenses, they brought punishment and persecution upon the Church as we experience it in our days but then the original spirit of their holy founders will blossom again.”
With these words the conversation ended. Now Our Lady explained to Pierina the meaning of the three swords and the three roses. A moving explanation which is to take quite seriously!
The first sword means loss of the vocation as a priest or a monk. The second sword means priests, monks, and nuns who live in deadly sin. The third sword means priests and monks who commit the treason of Judas. While giving up their vocation, they often lose also their faith, their eternal beatitude, and become enemies of the Church.
The white rose means the spirit of prayer. The red rose means the spirit of expiation and sacrifice. The yellow or golden rose means the spirit of penitence.
Third Apparition on October 22, 1947
The beautiful woman appeared again, this time in the chapel of the hospital in Montichiari during the service. Many employees of the hospital, some physicians, and people from the town were present.
Our Lady asked for the realization of the devotion she had recommended and said among other things, “My Divine Son, tired of the continuing offenses, wanted to act according to His justice. So I placed myself as a Mediatrix between Him and the human race, especially the specially consecrated souls.”
Pierina thanked her for that in the name of all who were present. Our Lady took leave with a beautiful thought for Pierina saying, “Vivi d’amore!” which means, “Live for love for charity!”
Fourth Apparition on November 16, 1947
Our Lady appeared publicly in the parish church of Montichiari in the presence of some people, among who were also several priests. Among other things she said, “Our Lord, my Divine Son, is tired of the many offenses, the severe offenses, the sins against holy purity.” Here she paused and then went on, “He wants to send another flood of punishment.” Here she stopped again for some moments and then went on, “I have interceded that He may be merciful once more. Therefore I ask for your prayer and penitence to expiate these sins.”
Pierina said, “Yes!” and agreed to these wishes of our dear Lady. The conversation went on, “I ardently ask the priests to admonish the people in love that they do not commit these sins anymore.” Pielina asked, “Will He then pardon us?” Our Lady answered, “Yes, so long as one does not commit them anymore.” With these words she went away.
Fifth Apparition on November 22, 1947
Our Lady appeared again in the parish church in the presence of several persons. First she told Pierina Gilli to make four crosses with her tongue on the floor just in the middle of the church, exactly under the dome. Then she descended on the crosses and said, “I descend on this place because it is here that great conversions will occur.” Somewhat sadly she went on, “Today specifically, there are Christians of your Italian nation who most offend our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, by their sins against holy purity. Therefore, the Lord demands, prayer, great sacrifices, and penitence.”
Pierina asked, “What have we to do to fulfill your wish for prayer and penitence?” Our Lady answered mildly, “Prayer” (here she was silent for some moments and continued), “Penitence means acceptance of the little daily crosses and also doing one’s work in the spirit of penitence.”
And in all her majesty she gave a promise with the following words, “On December 8th, at noon, I shall appear here again in the parish church and it will be the hour of grace.” Pierina Gilli asked, “Please, explain to me! What does it mean, the hour of grace?” Our Lady replied, “The hour of grace great and numerous conversions will occur.” Here she paused again for some moments and continued, “Souls, totally hardened, cold as this marble, will be touched by Divine grace and become faithful and God-loving again.”
This was the only time that our dear Lady predicted a future appearance. All the other apparitions happened unexpectedly.
Sixth Apparition on December 7, 1947
This time when Our Lady appeared again in the parish church there were only three persons present. Among them was the Reverend Confessor of the seer. Our Lady, as “Rosa Mystica,” wore a white cloak. This was held at the right side by a boy, at the left side by a girl. Both were also dressed in white.
Our Lady said, “Tomorrow I shall show you my Immaculate Heart which human beings know so little.” Here she paused and then went on, “In Fatima I spread the dedication to my Immaculate Heart.” With heartfelt expression she went on, “In Bonate I tried to introduce this devotion into Christian families.” (Bonate, where Our Lady appeared during the war, is situated near Bergamo.)
Here she made a somewhat longer pause, then continued, “Here in Montichiari I wish the devotion of the ‘Rosa Mystica,’ together with the veneration of my Immaculate Heart, to be increased in the religious institutes and the monastic communities, in order that these souls dedicated to God may receive more graces from my motherly Heart.”
Then Our Lady told Pierina a mystery and promised that she herself would let her know when she had to reveal it. Pierina asked, “Who are the two children at your side?”
Our Lady answered, “Jacinta and Francesco. They will be your companions in all your afflictions. They too have suffered, though they were much younger than you. Look, this is how I would like you to be simple and good as these children used to be.” Our Lady extended her arms protectingly, looked up to Heaven and exclaimed, “Sia benedetto il Signore!” which means, “Praised be the Lord!” Then she disappeared.
Seventh Apparition on December 8, 1947
On this great feast of St. Mary, some thousand people had gathered from everywhere. Pierina Gilli had great difficulty in getting into the overcrowded parish church. She knelt down on the spot where the other appearances had taken place. While people were praying the Rosary, she exclaimed, “Oh, La Madonna!” (Our Lady).
At once, there was a great silence. The pastor, Monsignore Abate Francesco Rossi, reported that many participants told him later, (though thousands of people were in the overcrowded church), it had become so still that one could hear the humming of a single fly. Our Lady appeared on a big white staircase which was decorated on both sides with white and yellow and red roses. Our dear Lady smiled and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” And with great majesty, descending, she said, “I am Mary of Grace, that is, the Full of Grace, Mother of my Divine Son Jesus Christ.”
Descending farther she continued, “I come here to Montichiari because it is my wish to be appealed to and venerated as ‘Rosa Mystica.’ I wish people to celebrate each year on December 8th at noon the hour of grace for the whole world. With this exercise, one will receive numerous spiritual and bodily graces. Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will be abundantly merciful so long as good men go on praying for their fellow men.
As soon as possible, let the Supreme Shepherd of the Church, Pope Pius XII, know it is my wish that this hour of grace be publicized and spread throughout the whole world. If someone cannot go to church at this time, he is to pray at noon at home, and he will receive graces from me. He who prays on these bricks and sheds tears of repentance will find a secure ladder to Heaven and get protection and graces from my Motherly Heart.”
With these words our beautiful and radiant Lady showed Pierina her Heart and burst into the following words, “Look at this Heart which loves human beings so very much, though most of them overwhelm it with abuses!” Here she paused a moment, and then went on, “When good people and bad people unite in prayer, they will receive mercy and peace from this Heart. At present the Lord has been merciful to the good ones because of my intercession. This has delayed a great judgment of God.” Smiling, she went on, “Very soon, one will know how important this hour of grace is.”
Pierina noticed that she was about to leave and said, “Oh beautiful, dear Saint Mary, I thank you! Please bless my homeland Italy, bless the whole world, especially the Holy Father, the priests, the monks and nuns, and the sinners.” Our Lady answered, “I have an abundance of graces ready for all those children who hear my voice and take my wishes to heart.” With these words the vision ended. Also during this vision Our Lady confided to Pierina a secret and promised to come again and tell her when the moment would come for revealing it.
Miraculous Healings During this Apparition
Parents brought to the church a boy of about five or six years who was suffering from polio and could not stand or walk. Other parents brought their daughter, about twenty-six years old, who suffered since she was twelve years old from severe tuberculosis. She had not been able to utter a single word for the last nine years.
In the same moment both were completely healed. The girl who had not been able to speak a word for the past nine years now sang a song of praise with a full voice. Since then she has been able to sing and speak without any difficulty. The parents of the boy carried him in their arms into the church, now he could stand and walk.
Later on he was shown in public from a balcony to the rejoicing crowd in the big square in front of the church. The whole crowd was deeply stirred when they saw the child jump up and down. He declared, “I have seen Our Lady in the church and she smiled at me benevolently.” Since that time both have been in good health. The boy married some years ago and the girl has become a pious God-fearing nun who is living only to expiate for the religious orders and priests.
A Third Miracle
The third miracle happened during the time of the appearance of Our Lady, not in the church of Montichiari, but in a private home of the town. A woman of about thirty-six years was healed at home during the time of the apparition. From childhood on she was not normal but also not completely mentally disturbed. She could not speak, but the worst thing was that she had no control over her bodily functions.
Her sister-in-law had to stay with her at home while her father went to the cathedral to the anticipated appearance of Our Lady. Her sister-in-law prayed the holy Rosary at the time of the appearance and exclaimed spontaneously, “Our dear Lady, if you are really present in the Church of Montichiari, please heal this poor sick girl!” In the same moment the sick person was healed completely.
She was healed forever! Loud and full of joy she prayed with her sister-in-law the holy Rosary to the end. When the father came home from the church, he was astonished and full of joy upon seeing his daughter healed.
This miracle especially caused a sensation and was later declared to be the most important one by several physicians. As in this case, any mass suggestion had to be excluded. The healing was lasting. The girl died some years later, but one of her brothers is still alive and can witness to all this.
Art and Literature
A devotional image enshrined at the Maria Rosenberg Church in Waldfischbach-Burgalben, Germany, holds an 1138 painting of Mary, featuring roses.
John Henry Newman said,
Mary is the most beautiful flower ever seen in the spiritual world. It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory; and Mary is the Queen of them all. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is called of all flowers the most beautiful. But, moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose, for mystical means hidden.
Roses have long been connected with Mary, the red rose symbolic of love, the white rose, of purity. In the fifth century, Coelius Sedulius referred to Mary as a “rose among thorns”. Known as the “queen of flowers”, the rose represents Mary as Queen of Heaven. Medieval writers also referenced a passage from Sirach 24:14 “like a palm tree in Engedi, like a rosebush in Jericho”.
Bernard of Clairvaux said, “Eve was a thorn, wounding, bringing death to all; in Mary we see a rose, soothing everybody’s hurts, giving the destiny of salvation back to all.” Mary is celebrated under the title “Our Lady of the Rose in Lucca, Italy on January 30. Roses feature prominently in the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a devotional poem called “Rosa Mystica”, which includes the lines “Mary the Virgin, well the heart knows, She is the mystery, she is that rose”. George Egerton’s novel Rosa Amorosa (1901) repeats the litany “Rosa mystica! Ora pro nobis!” but subsequently subverts this by transforming it into a pantheistic call “The elm overhead is my Rosa mystica!”. Chrysogonus Waddell composed an a capella choral piece titled “Rosa Mystica”, which was featured in the 2017 film Lady Bird.
Modern Italian Devotion
On 7 December 2019, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brescia inaugurated a shrine to the Blessed Virgin under the title Rosa Mystica – Mother of the Church. The sanctuary is a response to the claims of Pierina Gilli who reported Marian apparitions in Montichiari and neighbouring Fontanelle, Italy, in 1947 and 1966.
Whether or not the source was a genuine apparition of the Virgin Mary, Pierina actively promoted a devotion to Our Lady with three roses upon her breast and a way of practicing devotion to Mary under the title “Rosa Mystica”.
The Life & Spiritual Experience of Pierina Gilli
Premise the historical origin of the imposing phenomenon of prayer and veneration towards the Holy Mother of the Lord, invoked at the Shrine as “Rosa Mystica – Mother of the Church”, is certainly linked in a not secondary way to the human and spiritual experience of Pierina Gilli.
The events that occurred during Pierina’s life and the numerous messages witnessed in her Diary (edited by the ARES editions of Milan in 2016) were the subject of a renewed phase of study by the competent diocesan authorities and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, a phase that, to date, can be distinguished in two moments.
The first stage was launched in the Diocese of Brescia in 2013, and concerned exclusively the analysis of the acts of the Diocesan Commission of Inquiry, carried out regarding Pierina between 1947 and 1949; this first stage ended at the end of 2016, with the contribution of in-depth checks on the canonical procedural, psychological-forensic, pharmacological level, and made it possible to re-evaluate the positive value of Pierina’s person in a new way, both from a psychological point of view and the spiritual one.
The second stage, which began in 2018 and is still on going, and is focusing on the theological-doctrinal analysis of the entire corpus of messages contained in Pierina’s Diary. Previous studies in this area, in fact, had focused only briefly on the alleged apparitions of the first phase of Pierina’s life (from 1947 to 1960) without ever comparing them with those of the second phase of her spiritual experience, which began in 1966with the alleged apparitions that began in the locality of Fontanelle di Montichiari.
The study conducted until now, which will require further in-depth studies in the theological and historical field in order to verify the conformity of Pierina’s writings with the doctrine and the ecclesial teaching on the subject of Marian apparitions, has in any case already as certained the validity and exemplarity of the mystical-spiritual experience of Pierina, as well as the richness of her existential, humble and virtuous story.
Pierina Gilli (1911 – 1991)
Pierina Gilli was born in Montichiari on August 3, 1911, the first of nine children, in a modest peasant family, poor in means but rich in faith. She grew up dedicated to family, work and prayer, patiently enduring the hardships of material poverty and poor health.
Although she soon developed a desire for consecration to the Lord in religious life among the Handmaids of Charity, founded in Brescia by St.Maria Crocifissa di Rosa, she was never able to fulfill it due to the constant postponements that sudden illnesses and serious misunderstandings caused her.
Around the age of thirty Pierina suddenly becomes the protagonist of intense spiritual experiences linked to the devotion to Maria Rosa Mystica, now known all over the world, and in this faithful testimony, she received her definitive Cross, made up of innumerable physical and moral sufferings.
Pierina began a very reclusive life from the late 1960s onwards, living simply and prayerfully in a donated little, humble house with a small prayer chapel, making herself available at her private home (in Montichiari’s section or “frazione”, called Boschetti, which in English means “the little forests”), to visitors coming on pilgrimage to Fontanelle and to the Montichiari minor basilica.
The last recorded Marian apparition occurred on March 24, 1983 to Pierina, being 71 years old, in her Boschetti home when Mary expressed her desire to see the realization of a special Marian Sanctuary with five cupolas in Montichiari, and specifically requested that progress be made in producing a Mystical Rose Sanctuary medal according to her instructions.
Pierina Gilli, at the age of 79, died on January 12, 1991, at Montichiari, in the Boschetti section. After Pierina’s death, during the 1990s and 2000s, despite the local Brescia diocese’s generally unsupportive historical stance, some 40 reported apparitions of Our Lady, a few times as the sorrowful Madonna, though mostly as Mary the Mystical Rose; as recorded in Pierina Gilli’s diaries.
The number of visitors coming to Fontanelle and Montichiari increased sufficiently that in 2001, two priests were assigned in regard to the spiritual care of the pilgrims.
In relation to Montichiari and to Fontanelle, the spiritual conversions and the miraculous cures and the liberation from diabolical possessions are still continuing, accompanied by other supernatural signs, such as solar prodigies and luminous crosses in the sky. Sociologist Bruno Massaro has researched the apparitions, and has written a book on his findings The Case of Pierina Gilli of Montichiari (2003).
La Madre della Chiesa, Rosa Mistica: Fatima, Bonate, Montichiari: Le Anime, La Famiglia, La Chiese (The Mother of the Church, the Mystical Rose: Fatima, Bonate, Montichiari: The Souls, The Family, The Church), is a book compiled by Father Eligio Garbo, which informs mostly about the Montichiari apparitions.
Feast Day - 13th July
Marian devotees in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, celebrate Tuesday, July 13, the Feast of Our Lady Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose) in memory of the series of apparitions by the Blessed Mother to a pious Italian woman in the town of Montichiari in Northern Italy in the year 1947.
Believed by many as a continuation of the message of Fatima, the Virgin Mary appeared with the two children of Fatima – Francisco and Jacinta – to Pierina Gilli. She requested her to ask the faithful to pray the holy rosary, to repent for sins against the faith and morals, and to do penance. Our Lady requested that the 13th of every month be observed as a Marian day and that the 13th of July be observed in her honor, the Rosa Mystica.
Rosa Mystica or Mystical Rose is a poetic title of Mary. One form of Marian devotion is invoking Mary’s prayers by calling upon her using a litany of diverse titles, and the title ‘Mystical Rose’ is found in the Litany of Loreto.
The series of apparitions that began on a spring day in 1947 with the seventh and last one taking place on Dec. 8, 1947, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, was approved by the Vatican in 1966.
To this day, pilgrims fill containers with miraculous water from a spring at the apparition site. Devotional medals of Our Lady Rosa Mystica are also widely distributed and worn by devotees around the world.
Summer - Every Days
Winter - Every Days
Church Visiting Time
Mother of Church,
Via Rampina di S. Giorgio,
24, 25018, Montichiari BS, Italy.
Tel : +39 030 96 41 11
How to reach the Sanctuary
Brescia “Gabriele D’Annunzio” Airport also known as Montichiari Airport, is located in Montichiari, southeast of City of Brescia, Italy is the nearby airport to the Sanctuary.
Brescia Train Station is 25 kilometers away from Montichiari, southeast of City of Brescia, Italy is the nearby train station to the Sanctuary.