Our Lady of Grace
Montenero-Leghorn [Livorna], Tuscany


We outlined the Livorna region of Tuscany in relief format to make it easier for you to locate it. Look slightly below Livorna, to the left, there is a very small island, di Gorgona. If you took a boat from the island and kept going west, you would be off the coast of France. On the map beyond the relief to your right you can see Siena and above that Florence, the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Below Siena is Montepulciano. This part of Italy is the place of many Saints and miracles. Our Lady of Grace of Livorna is no exception. The title given to Our Lady, Lady of Grace is widespread and there are a number of miraculous images under that name throughout Europe. Most of you are very familiarly with the popular traditional poster image known as Our Lady of Grace, with The Blessed Virgin standing on clouds with rays coming from her hands.

The Our Lady of Grace of Livorna or Leghorn, is a very special image. Other than removing two stains, one each from Our Lady and the Christ Child, we left the painting exactly as it is; I could not bear to touch it it is so serene and captivating. The two stains were round blotches on the faces, removing them did not detract from the image because they were obviously little spots of grime. The natural aging of the picture is part of its appeal. The two figures have prominent ears; art experts and those who have studied Our Lady's images tell us that they think the artist wanted to portray them as being especially intent on listening to their supplicants. It is dated from 1345. The story of this miraculous image is just wonderful.

Montenero-Livorna is in a mountainous spot. The two locales [Montenero is not shown on our map] have a stream of water formed from melting snow that runs down to the sea below. That watery channel is called the Ardenza, and it is there that Our Lady of Grace came to be known.

There was but one little seer, a crippled shepherd boy, who was watching his flock on May 15, 1345. He suddenly saw a marvelous light, like a large haloed frame, in side of which was a magnificent picture of the Holy Virgin, surrounded by a number of clouds. He could also smell a lovely fragrance. He was enrapt with this vision when a voice asked him to take picture to the top of a nearby mountain. He was hesitant because of his condition, but the voice reassured him and he did as he was encouraged to do. When he reached the top the image became very heavy, so he set it down to rest. While he was regaining his strength he sensed something unusual in his crippled leg, as if it had unknotted itself. He felt refreshed, arose and could run, carrying his crutch because he no longer needed; he was joyous. He knew it was Our Lady's doing and he was prompt to thank her. He went to Leghorn to show himself to the priests, who were surprised,; they believed the miracle and hastened to the mountain to see the miraculous image. The harsh terrain is matched by its climate, so they decided to erect a shrine to protect the painting. However, the number of people who came on pilgrimage grew so much that the little chapel could no longer hold them. Today that chapel is now a major shrine. I tried to find links to it on the net, unsuccessfully.

There is another little shrine at Ardenza. The local people call it La Madonnina or the Chapel of the Apparition, which has a mosaic across the tope of the doors depicting the entire event with the little shepherd boy. His name was not passed down through the centuries for some unknown reason. Perhaps The Queen of Heaven wanted to keep him for herself in her own way.

Everyone comments on the unusual scene with the bird singing and his little legs tied to a cord held by the Christ Child, and Our Lady sitting not on a chair but a large pillow. This image is on an altar in the large church, surrounded with gold spires like a full halo; we recall that the little seer first saw Our Lady encased in a halo of light. The image we found on the web is so small it was not useful. The web site that featured it is now inactive.

Some of the marvels of the Image are these:

In 1472, on January 27, there was a severe earthquake; the people turned to the Madonna for prayer and no one was harmed. To this day the diocese celebrates the anniversary. Then in 1496 Emperor Maximilian I launched an attack on Leghorn, with the intention to destroy the seaport. The people again entrusted their lives to Our Lady. All of a sudden a huge gale arose and confounded the Emperor's fleet.

St. Paul of the Cross, who founded the Passionists, ahd the protection of the Madonna at Leghorn in 1750. He was traveling to Pisa but was imperiled by a tempest which threatened the ship. So he implored Our Lady of Grace. All seemed lost when appeared a great flash of lightning showed the ship being steered by some power not in their own hands. The craft was steered directly to still water. The Saint said he knew it was an actual miracle and went as soon as he could to the shrine to offer his gratitude. If you are so blessed to visit the shrine you will find near the altar a votive plaque with St. paul of the Cross kneeling in the storm-tossed sea while praying to Our Lady.

Our Lady of Grace was crowned in a solemn ceremony on May 4, 1690 at the request of Pope Alexander VIII. Other Pontiffs have shown the miraculous image full reverence. The church was raised to the rank of a minor basilica by Pope Pius VII in 1818; in 1876, Bl. Pius IX approved the Feast of Our Lady of Montenero under the title of Our Lady of Grace; various locales celebrate it on different dates. I was not able to find a specific date thus far. Pope Leo XIII authorized a special Mass of Our Lady of Montenero and in 1916, Pope Benedict XV granted it special indulgences.

Seamen who have implored the help of Our Lady of Grace have been granted great graces and favors, so much so that Pope Pius XI designated Our Lady of Montenero as the Protectress of the Liguorian and Tyrrhenian Seas. Ven. Pius XII declared her to be the main Patron of Tuscany.