It might not be the biggest, most famous or even the most architecturally impressive church in the world, but the Santuario Madonna della Corona (Sanctuary of the Lady of the Crown) is surely one of the most beautiful.
Built 2,000 feet above sea level, on the side of the vertical cliff face on Mount Baldo in the Veneto region of Italy, its beauty stands out in an already striking landscape.
From some angles, the structure can look as if it is floating in mid-air, but it is actually resting on a thin rock and is only accessible from a narrow path.
Over centuries, this site has been one of pilgrimage, offering silence and contemplation as well as natural beauty. It is believed that the location itself, which was linked with the Basilica of San Zeno in Verona, could have held significance for over a thousand years, with a monastery first erected there in the 13th century.
In 1530, more major construction took place, as they built what is now the church’s presbytery and added two sets of steps and a bridge. A larger church was built between 1625 and 1680. Part of the reason it took so long was the site’s remote location, but the work also added to the church’s accessibility for pilgrims. The church was enlarged again towards the end of the 19th century.
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In 1974, the Santuario Madonna della Corona underwent an extensive restoration. Under the stewardship of architect Guido Tisato, much of the church was knocked down and rebuilt, and a new shrine and altar were added. Soon after the work was finished, in 1988, Pope John Paul II visited and prayed to Our Lady of the Corona.
Within Veneto, the sanctuary is located in the village of Spiazzi, overlooking the valley of the Adige River. It is open year-round, from 8 am until 6 pm between November and March, and from 7 am until 7:30 pm between April and October.