CUSSANIO, Sanctuary of Madonna della Provvidenza
According to sources, in June 1521, a «woman dressed in white who was believed to be the Virgin Mary» appeared several times to the poor shepherd Bartolomeo Coppa, dumb since birth. After having healed him, the Madonna advised him to urge the people of Fossano to do penance. Bartolomeo obeyed but remained unheard. This, the ferocious pestilence that devastated the territory soon after, was interpreted as a punishment inflicted by the indifference to Mary’s call. Therefore, the people of Fossano decided to make a procession to the place of the apparitions and the plague immediately ceased. A chapel was built there in gratitude, and was repeatedly restored.
You reach the sanctuary along the spectacular avenue of the double-rowed entrance of hornbeam trees, from where you enjoy an excellent view of the austere building. The strong revival of the Marian cult in the era of Counter-Reformation led the Agostinian fathers to Cussanio, who enlarged the chapel in 1617, adding the convent and new buildings designed by Giovenale Boetto. In the Napoleonic era, the convent was closed, and the sanctuary was abandoned until its great rebirth. In 1876, the bishop Emiliano Manacorda, friend of San Giovanni Bosco, took care of its reconstruction. The eclectic style project is owed to the architect Giuseppe Magni, vicar general of the Diocese of Novara. The red of the brick and granite contrasts well with the copper roof of the dome and with the white Carrara marble statues, placed to crown the façade: the Virgin with Bartolomeo Coppa, the Blessed Ancina and the Blessed Oddino Barotto.
The interior has Latin cross architecture, with seven marble altars. The entire decoration refers to the miraculous apparitions of 1521, even if the most ancient testimonies of this devotion are now preserved in the Diocesan Museum of Fossano. The pictorial story was entrusted to Giuseppe Rollini, the trusted artist of Don Bosco. To him we owe the paintings of the Blessed Oddino and Blessed Ancina, but above all, the frescoes of the vaults: The apparition to Bartolomeo Coppa, La plague and the vote of the Fossano people, the Evangelical scenes, angels and prophets that stand out on a gold fake mosaic background. The canvases painted by the main artists active in Piedmont between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are of great value: on the right, the beautiful Madonna with Child between Saints Joseph and Augustine, painted in 1657 by Giovanni Claret (Clarè), also author of the canvas of the high altar; on the left, The Madonna with Child and Saint Francis de Sales, attributed to Claudio Beaumont (Bomòn). The church also houses the monument to Monsignor Manacorda, with the portrait bust sculpted by the Turin-born Gaetano Cellini in 1912.
The high altar
At the centre of the majestic high altar, framed by a rich gilded frame, there is the canvas painted by the Flemish painter Giovanni Claret in 1656. The work depicts The Madonna with Bartolomeo Coppa: it is the second apparition where the Virgin Mary is depicted in the act of giving three loaves to the shepherd. The canvas is inspired by the engraving by Giovenale Boetto in 1642 and widely spread among the devout.
The choir and the sacristy
Behind the high altar is the valuable wooden choir, carved between 1710 and 1713. Inside the sacristy there is the canvas with the Madonna of the Suffrage and Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, painted by Giovanni Claret and once located in the church, in the left chapel.
The corridor on the side of the church and several areas of the convent house numerous ex-votos, donated to the sanctuary by worshippers over the centuries and centuries of devotion. These areas also have a touching Crucifixion by Mario Càffaro Rore and the portrait of Monsignor Manacorda, main protagonist of the rebirth of this place of Faith.
Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translations: Europa 92
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925
Don Pierangelo Chiaramello