The Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Flower and Saint Martin
Vigano San Martino | Luoghi religiosi
A little church cited in the 16th century memoirs of Saint Charles Borromeo
This country church, a place of tranquillity and spirituality, was eventually replaced as parish church by another one closer to the hamlet of Vigano San Martino. It is a secluded place and one that today is regarded as one of the most fascinating of churches dedicated to the Madonna of the Flower. The Bishop of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo, described it as “a braccio” (measured in arm’s-lengths) almost five centuries ago.
“Twelve braccia long, six wide, covered by wooden beams, with just one altar”. (A braccia is an old Italian unit of measurement, approximating to the length of a man’s arm.) Thus Saint Charles Borromeo described this sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin when he visited the Val Cavallina in 1575. Translated into present-day metres, the measurements correspond roughly to 3.5 metres by 7: the church is a little gem of rural spirituality.
Inside, the rectangular nave was decorated at the beginning of the last century with geometric motifs and symbols, and at the centre of the presbytery there is a medallion dedicated to Saint Martin, patron saint of the village. The principal altar of the sanctuary is noteworthy as being perhaps the work of the Fantoni, the celebrated family of intagliatori (carvers) and sculptors from the nearby Valle Seriana.
Interestingly, the bell tower was erected some 150 years after the construction of the church itself. Today the church is a destination for pilgrims and devotees of the Madonna of the Flower, named as such in a reference to the fact that she was the mother of Jesus. The Old Testament tells us that “the flower is the son of the Virgin”, a concept repeated in Dante’s Divine Comedy: “nel ventre tuo si raccese l’amore, per lo cui caldo ne l’etterna pace così è germinato questo fiore” (“in thy womb was lit again the love, under whose warmth in the eternal peace this flower hath thus unfolded”).