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Monday, October 2, 2023
Courtesy of Rosina Sorge, P11302A
  The Sanctuary of the Madonna of Canneto rises from the centre of the National Park of Abruzzo, 1,020 metres above sea level, and is positioned at the base of Mount Meta (which rises 2,241 metres high), in the pleasant and picturesque Valley of Canneto, in the Commune of Settefrati, Province of Frosinone, an area which marks the confluence of four regions:

Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, and Lazio. The Valley has taken the name Canneto because of the presence of woods which were replete with a cane, of which there are no vestiges today.
Maddona Di Canneto Society booklet, 1996

The Valley of Canneto is called The Sacred Valley because of its status as a cult site, dating from the 4th century B.C. until today, a total of 23 centuries. During this time, there have been legions of faithful attracted to the site because of a supernatural manifestation. The original cult was pagan and represented the Goddess Mefitis and later, with the advent of Christianity, assumed the persona of the Madonna, Mother of God and of Humankind. The Goddess Mefitis was invoked to cure particularly malarial ones. The existence of the cult representing the Goddess Mefitis is documented in archeological findings which have resulted in the discovery that at Capodacqua, a site where the River Melfa crests, there lies, approximately 12 metres below ground level, a temple dedicated to a divinity dating from around the 4th century B.C. The first historical document which refers to a church dedicated to the Madonna in the Valley of Canneto dates from the year 819; it is a papal Bull promulgated by Pasquale I.

The Madonna of Canneto has always been named the BROWN MADONNA because of the coloration of the statue venerated in the Valley of Canneto. The artist who crafted the statue of the Madonna of Canneto simulated the characteristic brown coloration by use of a pulverized and polymerized chalk based dye.

The artist took his inspiration from portraits of the Madonna, representations deriving from Byzantine and Oriental sources, and blended in bold depictions dating from the Later Middle Ages; these portraits all present the Madonna with a brown hue. The question may be asked: why brown? The answer is that the first representations of the Traditional Madonna are attributed to the evangelist, Saint Luke, and for this reason are called the “Madonnas of San Luca,” and these are dark-skinned. Also, religious sentiment induced the artist to seek inspiration in the words of the Bible, which in the Canticle of Canticles, has the spouse of the beloved observe in her own regard: “Nigra sum, sed formosa, filiae Jerusalem... I am black but beautiful, a daughter of Jerusalem...” Popular devotion accepted the brown hue of the Madonna as natural and has sung for centuries: "she was beautified by holy thoughts, the sun was her halo and the moon her crown." Finally, the original dark stain on the statue has further darkened over the years from smoke candles and restorations.

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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.


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