Madonna Bianca, Portovenere and its miracle

Soon will be the Feast of the White Madonna of Portovenere, which returns on August 17, 2022, to illuminate Portovenere after two years of limitations due to Covid. The village’s streets are full of thousands of candlelights for this significant Feast for the entire Gulf of Poets. Even in the sea, the boats gather at dusk in the Portovenere canal, under the church of San Pietro, and in the Byron cave carrying each its light and forming a scenic effect of outstanding beauty.

The feast of the Madonna Bianca, every year on August 17, animates the village of Portovenere and has ancient origins. The birth of the Marian devotion in Portovenere dates back to a summer night in 1399 when a miracle occurred in the house of one Luciardo

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The scenic Madonna Bianca light show in Portovenere, with thunder in the background. Ph. by Silvio Turano

Useful to know: about Madonna Bianca 2023

  • There are connections to Portovenere by boat from Viareggio, Carrara, La Spezia, Lerici, Cadimare, Fezzano, Le Grazie, and Monterosso with the navigation service.
  • Car traffic entering Portovenere is closed from Borgo delle Grazie to Cavo. Only residents and those staying in Portovenere will be allowed access by car, which is also allowed for bicycles, mopeds and public transport. Instead, it will be possible to leave Portovenere by car.
  • Even if the tourist attraction is very high, for locals, the religious value remains and requires to be respected.
  • The many liturgical ceremonies planned in the church of San Lorenzo throughout the day culminate at 9 pm with the celebration of the Mass in the Piazzale di San Pietro. The procession follows along the illuminated streets to the church of San Lorenzo, where you can always see the miraculous effigy of the White Madonna.

Do you know Madonna Bianca’s story? Spezzino Vero tells us.

The Miracle of the White Madonna of Portovenere

It was August 16, in the last year of the fourteenth century. In his house, Luciardo was praying in front of a Madonna icon. In the same room, another effigy of the Madonna was older and blackened by time. Everyone said it had arrived in the fishing village from the sea, kept in a Lebanon cedar trunk. The Lebanon cedar trunk is still visible in the left aisle of the San Lorenzo church, which also houses the miraculous painting).

The Portovenere’s Madonna Bianca effigy

Engaged in prayer, Luciardo noticed that the old blackened picture was slowly gaining color. Amazed, he looked at the drawing’s changing shape. Finally, the hands of the Madonna clasped, and a cartouche appeared in the hands of the baby Jesus, a writing inviting everyone to pray and to convert.

Portovenere calls for a “Miracle,” certified by a public notary.

Amazed, Luciardo hailed it as a miracle. People from the village rushed in, stunned by the transformation process of the painting. They later called the notary Giovanni Michele from Vernazza to certify the event. He drew a careful chronicle of the fact, countersigned by 60 eyewitnesses.

The San Lorenzo Church in Portovenere

Although the scenographic effect of the Portovenere illumination includes the church of San Pietro in all the most shared images, this is not the church protagonist of the Feast of the White Madonna. Instead, the San Lorenzo church in Portovenere always contains the effigy of the White Madonna. It awaits the faithful to worship her on the anniversary of her apparition. Also known as the Sanctuary of the White Madonna, San Lorenzo di Portovenere is a church raised above the village. You can reach it by climbing briefly from the village’s narrow streets maze. Visit it any time of the year to admire its sumptuous Ligurian Romanesque architecture. You will find a Lebanon cedar wood beam in the church, more than three meters long. It contained the effigy of the Madonna and other shrines at the time of its discovery at sea in 1204 by local anglers. It was the year of the fourth crusade and the sack of Constantinople. 

The San Lorenzo Church in Portovenere, where the miracle Madonna is displayed. Ph. by Silvio Turano


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