Abruzzo Boasts many Sanctuaries and the most evocative religious itineraries in Italy
THE HOLY FACE OF MANOPPELLO (PESCARA)
The famous sanctuary of the Holy Face of Manoppello (Pescara) was built between 1617 and 1638. It's well known throughout Italy because it holds an old relic: an image depicting the face of Christ. Some scholars maintain that “the holy face” had been described in the Holy Land and associated with the veil that Veronica used to wipe Christ's face. The veil was called Veronica (after the woman, but also meaning True Image) and was stolen from Rome, where it had been kept. The object of pilgrimages for centuries like the Shroud of Turin, it is one of the most beloved relics in Abruzzo.
THE EUCHARISTIC MIRACLE OF LANCIANO (CHIETI)
In 1258, the sanctuary of San Francesco was built on the foundations of an older church in the central part of historic Lanciano: today it is known as the Sanctuary of the Eucharistic Miracle because it holds the relics of an extraordinary miracle. According to the tale that has been told over the centuries, in the old church of San Legonziano (upon which the sanctuary was later built) there lived a monk who harboured doubts about the nature of Christ in the Eucharist. It so happened that during Mass the host and the wine truly became flesh and blood. Today, the clearest evidence of the miracle is found in the few drops of dried blood that once were wine and a thin strip of flesh that was once the host, currently kept in a reliquary dating to 1713 and a crystal glass. Careful analyses, the first of which was conducted in 1971 and the second ten years later, prove that the relics really do come from a human body, but show no trace of treatments to preserve them.
THE WAY OF ST THOMAS (ORTONA – CHIETI)
The Way of St Thomas is a cultural, spiritual, and nature trail connecting the city of Rome with the Basilica of San Pietro in Ortona, which has held the Apostle's remains since 1258. This long route of about 316 km crosses through the authentic heart of Abruzzo, highlighting the landscape features so abundant in the region and its religious sites such as churches, hermitages, and abbeys, the silent repositories of spirituality.
The Way is also a form of modern pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Bridget of Sweden who travelled to Ortona between 1365 and 1368 after the revelation that St Thomas's bones were in the city's cathedral. History offers us an opportunity to rediscover the activity of travelling through modern means, as in Santiago de Compostela, which served as a model for the Way of St Thomas to unite the regions of Abruzzo and Lazio.
The itinerary of the Way can be travelled on foot, by bicycle on surfaced or dirt roads, and on horseback, starting from Rome and arriving at the Cathedral of San Tommaso in Ortona.
THE SANCTUARY OF LA MADONNA DEI MIRACOLI (CASALBORDINO - CHIETI)
The Sanctuary of La Madonna dei Miracoli in Casalbordino was made famous in the sixteenth century when the Virgin Mary appeared to a farmer who was praying on his way to work. The young man, called Alessandro Muzii, had the vision while in an oak forest, and he was told that the incessant rain that had fallen the day before was the wrath of God brought down upon the sinful population. Initially a chapel was built in the spot; today, it has been replaced by the sanctuary built in the first half of the 1800s.
SANCTUARY OF THE HOLY STAIRS OF CAMPLI (TERAMO)
The Holy Stairs were established in Campli on 21 January 1772. The sacred building is composed of 28 wooden steps to be climbed strictly on one's knees for the forgiveness of one's sins. Those who complete the rite receive plenary indulgence with the same value of the stairs sharing its name in Rome.
In addition to its religious value, the sanctuary in Campli is of great artistic and cultural significance: on the stairs leading up and those leading down, the penitent metaphorically retraces the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ by viewing the images depicted on the six large paintings hanging to each side. At the top of the Stairs is a grille leading to the Sancta Sanctorum, the true heart of the sanctuary. Within, some fragments of the Cross of Christ are kept along with a number of relics preserved in artistic reliquaries made in the Neapolitan style. The sanctuary in Campli is one of a kind in that it revolves entirely around the Passion of Christ.
For this reason, on 14 January 2000 Pope John Paul II granted a new Papal Bull that promulgated the indulgence to all the Fridays in Lent in addition to the indulgences established in the 1700s.