The sanctuary of Ghisallo is a little church at Magreglio, which is 754m above sea level on the Vallassina road, which goes from Milan to Bellagio via Erba between the two branches of Lake Como. This blessed Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of Cyclists.
The little church has no written history but according to tradition the Virgin Mary venerated on the steep hill which it is named after and is probably of the type that the villagers used to put by the roadside to protect the villages and their religous heritage.
The holy image was set up in the woods of this area which at the time were full of brigands, who used to seek refuge here and enjoy the right of asylum.
Around the XI century it is said that in the area of Magreglio some brigands threatened to kill a certain Count of Ghisallo while he was out hunting. He prayed to the Madonna he had come across on the spot and the Virgin saved him. This is the reason why the image of the Madonna got the name of "Ghisallo" and she was soon venerated under this title.
A little church was built around the original shrine, followed after a while in 1623, by the little sanctuary which is a popular spot for visitors.
Due to the geographical position of the Sanctuary, it has become a landmark for cycling competitions including the Tour of Lombardy in October. So the little church has become the symbol of the spiritual elevations of this sport.
On 13th October 1949 Pope Pius X11 appointed the Madonna of Ghisallo Patron Saint of Italian Cyclists.
As a result that image was and still is venerated by international cycling as it's Patron Saint and the place has become the focus of many pilgrimages and races.
In the little church there are gifts and trophies from the cycling world which cyclists have presented as a mark of their devotion to their Patron Saint from 1948 until the present day.
The 'Monument to the Cyclist' and busts of famous cycling personalities adorn the adjacent area.
Next to the Sanctuary was built the 'Museum of Cycling Madonna of Ghisallo'.
On May 31st 2006 Pope Benedict XV1 blessed the final stone of the building in the vatican, thereby solemnising the completion of the museum. This stone can be seen in the central room of the museum building and bears the inscription 'Omnia Vincit Amor' (love conquers all).
I have included below a few of the photos I took of some of the exhibits................
From: Darin Armstrong #TeamLIVESTRONG
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Geez! I know a guy who still rides one of those Merckx bikes. And it's orange like the one in the photo. Rode with him just last week, in fact.
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