Nov 2007

2007 Peace Tour

madonna hand

Sitting in the library, we heard Anna Maria outside, revving the engine of her little car. Friday night at six o’clock was not a normal time for her to be heading out somewhere. I looked over at Luciano, eyebrows raised. He shrugged an “I don’t know” and leaned out the window.

“Where are you going?”

“To Soffratta chuch. The Madonna from Motta is there on a visit and we want to pay our respects.”

“But tonight? Why not tomorrow?”

“She is moving to Tezze tomorrow, so we are taking our chances tonight. It is pretty crowded over there at the Saturday mass.”

Luciano could see Augusta, our next door neighbor, waved excitedly from the passenger seat as the two groupies headed out to catch a glimpse of the diva. He turned back to me and said, “The Madonna is on tour and they are going to night because they are afraid it will be sold out tomorrow.”

La Madonna of Motta usually stays put in her shrine at the magnificent church in that nearby village. People traveled from far and wide to pay their respects and, should she perform a miracle, leave gifts of gold. After she was robbed a couple of times, however, the gold was removed and she toils there now clad only in her painted-on gold. Except at the moment, we have been told, she is on tour. I wondered if there is a stand-in back in Motta or if there is just a little sign saying “Out on Tour” Does she travel by truck, the back seat of a car, or in a bus with a wet bar and satellite dish?

madonna face

Needing to start somewhere, I wanted to know why she was more of an attraction than, say, our little Madonna down the road in her shrine in the cornfield. Why is Madonna of Motta the rock star? I first grilled Luciano.

“She appeared to someone many years ago.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, it is pretty impressive, don’t you think? When you come right down to it.”

“Does she perform miracles? Cure people?”

“Sometimes, but mostly she is just there.”

Disappointed, I asked Anna Maria later to tell me more.

“Has she ever been on tour before?”

“No, they decided to take her out on the road this year for the first time. To promote peace. But I don’t think it will do any good.”


Because the people who are interested in going to see her are not the trouble makers. Plus, I overheard people talking, saying that they were disappointed because it was not the real Madonna of Motta, just a reproduction.”

Luciano commented, “Well, if you think about it, they are all reproductions.” Anna Maria ignored this remark, but I tried to clarify.

Is she a reproduction? Is there a stand-in for her in Motta?”

“I don’t know. She looked real to me…made of terra cotta, with a gold crown. But what do I know....”

I decided to investigate further and over the weekend, Luciano and I made our own pilgrimage to Motta where we easily found the 16th century church. It is grand and elegant, with a long covered walkway on one side to accommodate the pilgrims. High on the wall a line is etched into the marble:
Floodline:November 4, 1966. Luciano pointed it out, reaching above his head to do so. The church was a good eight feet under water during that disastrous autumn when the Livenza River escaped its banks, yet not a drop entered the church…or so they say.

This only adds to the legend of the real miracle: A seventy-nine year old farmer named Giovanni Cigana, reported that on March 9, 1510 the Madonna appeared to him at the very spot where he had been praying for twenty years. She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he should urge the people of the village to pray even harder. A basilica was constructed post-haste to follow her orders and since then the pilgrims have beaten a path to her church, to the reproduction of the original tiny chapel, and ultimately to the crypt under the apse where the Madonna sits, arms outstretched, baby in lap, with two angels at her side. Though they are all behind thick glass and gilded bars, they look as if they are floating, the gold wings of the angles poised if they might shake off the gold chains draped in their wings and take flight.

Luciano and I sat quietly in the crypt as people shuffled in and out in silence. The fact that the date was so precise is interesting to me. March 9th. Imagine being able to say, “The day before yesterday I saw the Madonna.” Or, “Let’s see---it was six months ago, tomorrow.”

From afar I examined her for clues that she might have been out and about. Despite the Madonna’s apparent readiness for flight, she did not look as if she had just returned from a road trip. Nor did she look temporary, but rather as if she had been sitting there for at least a hundred years. Now we needed to know if the Madonna on tour was still out and about or if she had returned. If not, we would then know that the one dodging the paparazzi while promoting peace is the stunt double---or vice versa?

At lunch we got the final answer from Anna Maria.

“Is the Madonna still on tour?”

“Yes. I think she is on her way to Vazzola.”

Luciano and I exchanged looks.

“We went to Motta. She is there. Sorry.”

“Oh, so it is true…she
is a reproduction!” Luciano’s father Giancarlo suddenly joined the conversation.

“They are
all reproductions, so it does not matter!” Anna Maria countered… “How does she look?”


In fact Anna Maria had lost track of la Madonna di Motta so I never got to see her. But I did find out that she was traveling in a bus with an entourage of “brothers in brown” with means the local Cappuccini monks, whose long brown cloaks inspired the name for the coffee I sip on Saturday mornings.

This was all too much glamour for me so I slipped down the road to our Madonna in the cornfield to thank her again for not answering Luciano’s teenage prayers for the pretty girl down the road to like him. She stands quietly in her shrine, dressed simply in blue, a little worn from the elements. There are no gifts of gold, no crowds, no attending angels, only wilted flowers in the setting sun. I sat in the silence of the fields on the bent-iron bench, looked out across the golden corn and felt comfort in her calm companionship.