The society of the Madonna di Canneto was founded in 1988. Its purpose was to venerate, maintain and promote the religious secular traditions of SS Maria who is venerated by all in the Sanctuary of Canneto in the Ciociaria. The Society became a group of the Ciociaro Club of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and celebrated its first event in 1988 when Tony Tramontozzi, President of the group at that time, arranged for Toronto's statue of the Madonna di Canneto to visit the Club.
Thousands of people participated in this religious celebration with joy and spontaneity. They were grateful to the Madonna di Canneto for her protection throughout the years since their immigration to North America. For many Ciociari, it was the first time they had seen this sacred image since leaving their homeland.
The Ciociaria, land of Saturno, is credited with a common religious history. In fact, in this region, there are hundreds of convents, monasteries and abbeys. The churches in the Ciociaria are numerous and are, still today, commonly found in the center of town surrounded by piazzas, stores, and homes. All of the central or rural churches and convents were constructed with almost total participation from the residents who felt it was an honour to partake in the construction of their religious edifice. Numerous icons and chapels were erected at junctions and various other intersections as signs of devotion, as well as symbols of protection for the faithful and recognition for graces received. The Sanctuaries in the Ciociaria are numerous and famous regardless of where they are located - towns, valleys, or even mountaintops. This is the meeting place of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. Many of these pilgrims make this journey on foot, joining with others who walk for days and days to reach these sacred places of prayer. The Sanctuary of the Madonna di Canneto is the most popular one in the Ciociaria.
The Sanctuary of Canneto hails from an area that is today known as the National Park of the Abbruzzi in Settefrati. This park, located in the Province of Frosinone, is encompassed by four regional boundaries - Lazio, Abbruzzi, Molise, and Campania. The name Canneto was derived from a place with bamboo; today, all signs of bamboo have vanished.
The valley where the Sanctuary resides is called Sacred Valley because since the 4th century before Christ, it was a place that attracted huge numbers of believers drawn by a particular presence of the supernatural. The Sanctuary was constructed on the remains of the site where the Goddess Mefiti was known to have removed fevers; especially those caused by malaria. The oldest known document revealing the original existence of the Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna in the valley of Canneto dates back to the time of Pope Pasquale in the year 819.
An ancient story tells of a young shepherd girl named Silvana who saw an apparition of a white Lady radiating light and celestial beauty while she was tending her flock. The Lady asked her to go to the town of Settefrati and ask the rector to construct a church where she stood. The shepherd girl was worried about bringing her flock to drink. The Lady told her not to worry and as she spoke a stream of fresh, clear water emerged from the rocks. The Lady let her ring fall into the stream and it transformed into thousands of little gold stars that, until 1950, could still be seen in the water.
The Sanctuary was constructed and was frequented more and more often. It was renovated and enlarged over the centuries. Thousands upon thousands of pilgrims, to this day, credit the Madonna with many miracles. The walls of the old Sanctuary are literally covered with testimonials of people who received miracles. The Sanctuary was visited and taken care of throughout the centuries by various ecclesiastical authorities, namely Abbots, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes. There were even representatives of various alternate governments from the territory where the Sanctuary was located who contributed to the welfare of the Sanctuary. The statue left the Valley of Canneto for the first time in 1948 for the occasion of the Mariano Pilgrimage. In 1954 the statue was given a golden crown by the Cardinal Aloisi Masella to commemorate the Inter-Diocese Mariano Conference in the presence of hundreds of thousands of faithful who came from all parts of Central Italy. Almost all immigrants visited Canneto before they left their homeland to travel to their new homes abroad. In the hope of maintaining these religious traditions, groups were formed in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and Windsor to name only a few. The shrine of the Madonna di Canneto was recently renovated, conserving the characteristic front façade of the old secular church. The religious traditions and sentiment is still felt and demonstrated by the tens of thousands who visit every year.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many Ciociari traveled to Toronto in the month of August to venerate the Madonna di Canneto. In 1988, Tony Tramontozzi asked the committee of the Society of the Madonna di Canneto of Toronto to bring their statue of the Madonna to Windsor. Thousands of people came to participate in the ceremonies, and many were especially moved because they had not seen the image of the Madonna since they emigrated many years earlier. The success and emotion of this event demanded that this should be done more often in Windsor. The group organized themselves and became the Society of the Madonna di Canneto, a sector of the Ciociaro Club which originally formed allotting members the opportunity to maintain and preserve their traditions, religious and otherwise.
The obvious need to
maintain a statue of the Madonna di Canneto on site was decided. Through
the initiative of Tony Tramontozi, Cesidio Acchione, Maria di Gioia, Tony
Fontana, and President of the Ciociaro Club Luigi Tosti, a fundraising
campaign was initiated to generate funds to finance the statue. Luigi
Tosti made direct contact with the Bishop Mons Lorenzo Chiarinelli of
Sora. For the first time in the history of the Madonna di Canneto, the
Bishop authorized the commission of a replica of the statue for the devotees
in the Windsor-Essex County area. On August 1, 1992, the statue arrived
in Windsor. On August 15, 1992, thousands of pilgrims from Canada and
the United States celebrated the premiere festival. There were worshippers
from Toronto, Sarnia, Hamilton, London, St. Catherines, New York, Boston,
Chicago, and Cincinnati, Detroit and many other places. The event was
extremely poignant. The statue was officially received by Father Lino
Santi e da Don Ottavio Scaccia representing the bishop of Sora. The Bishop
sent the following message to the faithful, "
and protect the devotion for the crown Madonna who was also a pilgrim
in a foreign land". The great crowd was further moved and strained
to get closer to the statue. The image was a replica of the statue in
Italy, brown and charming. For those who did not know the story of Madonna,
a brown statue appeared unusual. They did not realize that this endearing
dark colour is characteristic of the image of the Madonna over time.
Many people who heard of the statue of the Madonna di Canneto residing at the Ciociaro Club came to pray to SS Maria for themselves and their loved ones. With the statue locked away, it was not possible for everyone who wanted to see her to be able to have the opportunity for reflection and devotion. This, and other important factors, generated the idea to construct a proper home for the Madonna to enable a place of prayer, giving everyone the opportunity to meet their individual religious and spiritual needs. The idea was analyzed over time. This home should be constructed on the grounds of the Ciociaro Club, an already grand complex and shining jewel for the Ciociaro community. The Club is impressive not only for it's structure, but also for the prestige, reputation and honour acquired over the years through various activities and events of all kinds. From religion to sport, culinary arts to community events, involving not only the members, but also the entire Italian, Canadian, and American communities, it presents an opportunity to maintain and preserve their traditions. All of these factors were considered and it was decided to construct a shrine with a façade similar to the one in Canneto, Italy. The rest of the edifice would be original and ultra-modern to represent the cohesion of three cultures - Italian, Canadian, and American. It was to be a worthy example of our majestic churches in Italy. The responsibility of the design was given to the Architect, Vincenzo Martelluzzi, brother of Rita who had visited us frequently as a part of the Provincial Administration of Frosinone. Over the course of many months, the design was finished and a model constructed. Pictures were circulated among the faithful, whose numbers were ever increasing, for their input at the annual August festival. The faithful were very much in favour of the Sanctuary and many donations and offers of assistance were made.
The group of the Madonna di Canneto became the Society of the Madonna di Canneto and was officially registered with the Government of Ontario and the Federal Government of Canada as a Registered Charity and further obtained a Charitable Donation Number. This allowed them to issue receipts for donations. . At the same time, they obtained the necessary permission from ecclesiastical authorities in the Province of Ontario. It made the dream a reality.
In the early months of 1999, the final plans were ready and approved. Many Donations were coming in from enthusiastic Ciociari and the rest of the Communities, near and far.
The participation of the community included donations of money, materials, machinery, and hundreds of hours of manual labour. It was remarkable! The donations of money and material came from various communities: the Ciociaria in Italy, the Provincial Administration of Frosinone, the communities Boston (Pennsylvania), Ohio (Michigan), Chicago (Illinois), Toronto (Ontario), Montreal (Quebec), Cambridge (Ontario), Sarnia (Ontario), ET cetera. Materials such as doors, windows and structural columns were donated with unparalleled enthusiasm. Other groups organized themselves and together contributed to the cost of the larger components of the construction. Al Fanelli and Mario Mancini donated the structural cement columns, supports, structural façade, and choir. Tony Toldo gave an extremely generous donation in appreciation of this monument to Italian Culture. Other generous donations were from Enrico Iacobelli and Gino Saccucci from Leamington, Sergio Gesuale who organized the fundraising effort in Michigan and there were other generous personal monetary donations as well as building materials from many other people. Generous groups, including the Casalverani who were led by Tony Fanelli, contributed to the cost of the façade, the group from Pignataro Ineramma led by Gino Cavaliere who donated the marble pavement originating from their town.
The construction of the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Canneto in Windsor, Ontario, Canada was an undertaking without precedent by several hundreds of people motivated by their need to maintain and preserve their culture through this magnificent example of architecture to benefit the whole community.
The inauguration of the Sanctuary was celebrated on February 3, 2001. It was one of the most important events ever celebrated in the Italian Community. The Bishop from London, Mons J M Sherlock and the Auxiliary Bishop, Mons Richard Grecco were not able to attend due to prior commitments, but they sent a message of congratulations for this beautiful place of prayer and meditation. Notable attendees were the Bishop of Sora, Mons Luca Brandolini, the Minister of Immigration, Ms. Anna Teresa Formisano from the Region Lazio and her delegation, Mayors from the Ciociaria, and other personalities. Representation from the Federal and Provincial Governments included Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray. Local Government was represented by Mayors from the Windsor-Essex County area. There were representatives from various Clubs and Associations along with 1,000 guests. The event was reported in international and local media and told the story of the tenacity of Italians and the realization of this arduous undertaking.
The Sanctuary is almost completed and is open to all those who wish to visit. Many events are planned - both religious and cultural. It was the intention of this construction to have a home for the statue of the Madonna di Canneto, a symbol of Italian culture in this region, a place of attraction for those faithful to the Madonna, and a place of prayer and mediation. All of this was realized thanks to the incomparable work and dedication of the Society assisted by thousands of people whose names will remain forever on the walls of the Sanctuary itself.
welcome to visit the Sanctuary. For more information, please contact