Madonna della Corona
On one of our early days staying on the edge of Lake Garda, we caught the gondola up to the top of Mount Baldo that was the background to our time staying in the town of Malcesine. Our time was spent taking in the views over the lake and watching the paragliders dance with the winds of death above the mountain slopes. Later on in our week at Lake Garda we were taken on a drive south and back around to the other side of Mount Baldo to visit a religious sanctuary that was clearly designed by acolytes who believed that God could be best found in places where a long fall to the valley floor was great encouragement for staying on the ‘narrow path’ to heaven.
There are three parts of the experience of walking the trail to Madonna della Corona, “Our Lady of the Crown”. The first section was the sculptures of the 14 scenes from the story of the last days of Jesus of Nazareth as he made his way from Judas’ s betrayal, trial before the Jerusalem authorities, his carrying of the cross, his crucifixion and the resurrection. These sculptures are very impressive whether you have a religious interest in the ‘Via Crucis’ or are just interested in great art with a backdrop of magnificent mountain scenery.
Our walk along the path towards Madonna della Corona reminded me of a trip a few years before to the Dordogne/Occitanie region of France where we visited Rocamadour. Like this site, the main church there was built into the side of the mountain towards the bottom of a cliff and was reached by a long series of steps down the mountain. Along this path, sculptures of the Way of the Cross were built into the turns of the twisting path (https://fogtravel.blog/rocamadour/). I have to say, the quality of the bronze statues at Madonna della Corona were far more impressive.
After finishing examining the Stations of the Cross, we reached a point on the mountain trail where we were able to the see the Church below, built into a narrow ledge on the side of Mount Baldo…many of the reports of this site speak of it “clinging to the side of the mountain” or “suspended in mid-air”. It was on the original cliff face shelf that monks from monasteries in Verona came to the mountain for prayer and contemplation from around 1,000 CE. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the first church was built on this site and the sanctuary became a destination for pilgrimages for both monks and lay people. Since that time the buildings on site have been remodelled and rebuilt, even the church was almost completely restored in the 1970s with the architect incorporating many of the older church’s art works in the new structure. One of the features of being built in such an inaccessible place meant that it was only the ravages of time that caused the previous structures to deteriorate, not the passing armies on their ravaging way south to Rome.
The second key aspect of a visit to Madonna della Corona are the steps that lead up to the Church door that can be seen in the image on the left below. They are another physical reference to the story of Jesus’s last days when he was moved around Jerusalem from one ‘judgement’ place to the next before his last walk to Golgotha. They are referred to as the Holy Steps, the ‘Scala Sancta’ and are meant to be a recreation of the Scala Sancta that is in a building near St John Lateran in Rome. These original steps can be seen in the image on the right below. We chose to walk up the steps to the church at Madonna della Coronoa rather than the traditional method of climbing such steps on your knees.
As would be expected, the inside of the church was very beautiful, particularly as the front wall of the church consisted of the exposed rock wall of the cliff, covered with bronze sculptures above the altar.
Madonna della Corona was a great place to visit, not just to see a beautiful, ancient Christian sanctuary preserved for the 21st century but the mountain views and the hiking just confirmed what a great place the region around Lake Garda is to visit.