HISTORY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN OF SAN LUCA
The icon of the Madonna of San Luca arrived in the city towards the end of the 13th century, leading to the birth of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca in Bologna. Carried by a pious pilgrim, the image was later entrusted by the city’s leaders to the nuns of a convent on the Colle della Guardia, who adorned it with flowers and jewels. A revered object of popular devotion, the icon depicts an odigeous Madonna and Child in classic oriental iconography, resulting from increased contact between eastern and western culture.
Various sources attest that the origin of the Bolognese sanctuary can be traced back to a Bolognese woman of good family who requested that the pontiff build a place of worship on Monte della Guardia. It is said that Pope Celestine III sent the first stone of the new building to the bishop of Bologna in 1193, mandating that it should be placed on the mountain to commence construction on the oratory. A few months later the bishop of Bologna, Gerardo Gisla, laid the foundation stone on 25 May 1194. Thus began a Christian adventure that continues to play an important role in Bolognese culture. Every May, the Madonna of San Luca is celebrated by a procession that carries the venerated icon down the mountain and into the city. The seal addressed to Pietro on 2 July 1228, prior to the church of Santa Maria del Monte della Guardia, testifies to the origins of the church’s name. Equally important is the seal of the Chapter of the Chiesa del Monte, also from 1228, which includes the image of the Madonna and Child. A seal that references, for the first time, the icon itself.
Faithful pilgrims maintain a common belief that, after prolonged observation of the sacred icon within the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca in Bologna, one feels followed by her maternal gaze. This feeling is especially strong when approaching the icon from the staircase leading up to the altar.