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The Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Divine Love In Rome, Italy

The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love is a Roman Catholic shrine is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and it is one of the 7 Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love - Crypt

The Crypt

The Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Divine Love was made part of the pilgrimage route by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Prior to that, the minor basilica St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls was one of the seven churches, until it was replaced.

Sanctuary Of Our Lady of Divine Love And Intervention

The shrine is in celebration of the Virgin Mary and acts of God’s Divine Intervention that have taken place on the site. The story of the first divine intervention goes like this:

On a spring day in 1740. A traveler thought to be a pilgrim heading to St. Peter’s Basilica gets lost on the deserted country paths more than a half-dozen miles south of Rome. As he is about to enter the Castel di Leva he is attacked by a pack of wild dogs.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love - Grounds

The Grounds

The angry dogs surround him and are ready to attack. Terrified, the poor man looks up and realizes that there is a sacred image of the Virgin Mary on the tower. Like a shipwrecked man who clings to her boat with all the strength he is capable of, he shouts: “My God, grace!”.

It’s a moment. The dogs, which are now upon him, suddenly stop. It almost seems that they are obeying a mysterious order. At the call of that desperate cry, the shepherds who are nearby rush and, after hearing that incredible story, put the pilgrim back on the road to Rome.

The Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Divine Love Places Of Prayer

Of the collection of seven churches of the pilgrim’s trail, this sanctuary is by far the largest, apart from Vatican City. It is a sprawling campus on rolling hills that include an outdoor prayer space, a couple of caves, a new church and other chapels. As I mentioned, there were actually two different and unrelated masses being celebrated during my visit and there was still more than enough to enjoy while walking around the beautiful grounds. These include:

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love - Tower

The Tower of the First Miracle

  • The Tower of the First Miracle – As mentioned above, this was the location of the fresco of the Virgin of Divine Love and was what the traveler prayed to. The original fresco is now kept in the Ancient Sanctuary.
  • The Ancient Sanctuary – Unfortunately for me, this was one of the churches that had a mass underway at the time of my visit, so I only took pictures of the exterior. It was built in 1744 and now houses the fresco that was originally on the Tower of the First Miracle.
  • The New Sanctuary – This church is probably one of the most modern looking ones that I’ve seen in Rome. It took more than 10 years to build and was completed in 1999. Since 2007, it has been kept open day and night for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.
  • The Crypt – This was originally a cistern of the ancient medieval castle and in 1947 was made into a church. In the semi-dome above the altar (the Apse) there is a mosaic and in the back, beyond the tomb of Don Umberto Terenzi are statues of the Virgin of Sorrows and a dead Jesus.
  • The Open-Air Church – Although in a bit of disrepair during my visit, the open-air church has mother earth for the floor, the sky for the dome and the course of the sun for orientation. Respecting the nomadic tradition, the “Sanctuary of the Gypsies” is designed outdoors.
  • The Cave of Elijah – This grotto was inaugurated in 2007 and is a cave of Tufa stone that is dedicated to the Prophet Elijah who took refuge in a cave and had an encounter with God when he heard the wind.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love - Cave

The Cave of Elijah

There are other places of prayer scattered around the property, but I felt like these were the most interesting and dramatic for a visitor looking for their first intervention by the divine.

The Seven Pilgrim Churches Of Rome

The tradition of visiting all seven churches was started back in the 16th century in order to combine conviviality and the sharing of a common religious experience through the discovery of the history of the early Saints. In the beginning, a few friends and acquaintances would gather before dawn and set out on their walk. At each church, there would be prayer, hymn singing, lunch breaks and a brief sermon. The path covers twelve miles in Rome, but if you aren’t interested in walking that far, public transportation and taxis can make the journey that much easier.

In addition to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Divine Love, which is a shrine, there are six other basilicas that make up the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome:

The Seven Churches Visitation is a Roman Catholic tradition to visit seven churches on the evening of Maundy Thursday during Lent, but it is also done on Wednesday of Holy Week. During the Seven Churches Visitation, the faithful visit several churches to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in each church. Depending on the timing, you might encounter church services that you can either attend or wait until they are finished, before you can have a detailed tour of the church.

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love - Crucifix

The New Sanctuary Crucifix

Sanctuary Of Our Lady of Divine Love Hours of Operation

Admission is free, but this church is actively used and may be unexpectedly closed to tourists. On my first visit to the basilica I was unable to enter a couple of the chapels because of masses that were underway, so I focused on the other sites, and there are many. You should always be flexible when visiting any of the important sites in and around Rome. The hours are:

  • The office is open everyday from 9:00 AM until noon and again from 4:00 PM until 6:45 PM. Holidays included.

Other Hidden Gems That Might Interest You

If you have enjoyed this brief history of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Of Divine Love, you may also find these hidden gems interesting and worthy of a visit as well:

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