The Church of St. Mary of Mount Berico is a Roman Catholic and minor basilica in Vicenza, northern Italy. The church is a Marian shrine, and stands at the top of a hill which overlooks the city.
According to the legend, the Blessed Virgin appeared on the hill twice to a peasant worker named Vincenza Pasini; the first time occurred on March 7, 1426, the second on August 1, 1428. At this time in the Veneto, the people and economy had been suffering from a terrible plague for years. The Madonna promised that if the people of Vicenza built a church on the top of the hill she would rid them of the plague. The people kept their promise and the church was built in 3 months. The original church later became a sanctuary. It was projected by the architect Carlo Borella (1688) and was decorated by the sculptor Orazio Marinali from Bassano. The city of Vicenza ordered an inquiry through the Notary Publics a to look into these two exceptional events. The inquiry followed through during November, 1430. The court recordings are still preserved today in the city library, ' Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana'.
The first religious services of the basilica were given to the Order of Bridgettines (the Franciscan Order of Santa Brigida) by the city on November 2, 1429. At the end of May, 1435, the nuns of Saint Brigid were ordered to leave the basilica by order of Pope Eugene IV on March 18, 1435, and were ordered to return to their original way of life of their order's foundation. The Vicenza city magistracy was given the rights to Monte Berico. They then proceeded to cede the church and convent to the Servite Order(Servants of Mary) on May 31, 1435. The next day, Francesco Malipiero, the bishop of Vicenza, gave the chapel the name that still exists today. In 1821 were casted the 15 bells in B, rung in the Veronese bellringing art.
The stairs constructed in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1595 were ordered by Giacomo Bragadin, a leading figure of the Republic of Venice in Vicenza. The stairway terminates in a small open clearing halfway up the hill where there is a view of the city below. This walkway currently connects the city with the Sanctuary of the Madonna. These stairs were designed and built by Francesco Muttoni on March 7, 1746. The total length of the stairs is around 700 meters, consisting of 150 arches, grouped in tens. Each group is divided to symbolize the 15 mysteries and the 150 Hail Marys in the rosary. The church contains a number of artworks. The original basilica has been restored repeatedly during the centuries, sometimes with famous architects such as Palladio, Piovene and Miglioranza. All these changes are still visible today.
The statue of the Virgin Mary was sculpted by Nicolò da Venezia in 1430, two years after the second apparition to a local peasant named Vincenza Pasini.
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