Sanctuary of the Madonna d'Avigliano
It is located in the high and mountainous area of the historic center of the Città di Campagna where the Franciscan convent once stood. Of very ancient origins, the primitive and small cenoby (1168 as evidenced by a document preserved in the Badia della SS. Trinità of Cava de' Tirreni), began to take shape in a sensitive way in 1258, when the Angevin knight Giovanni d'Apia arrived in Campagna acquiring the seigniory after the victory of Carlo D'Angiò. The latter wanted to reward his military adviser with the feud of Campagna.
Important merits in the history of Campagna must be attributed to the Knight, madly in love with our ancient inhabited center, divided equally by the Castello Gerione, the Dominican Convent of San Bartolomeo but, in mostly, for the Sanctuary of the Madonna d'Avigliano. In fact, d'Apia had this place very close to his heart and we owe him an initial conservation and maintenance of the old church, laying the foundations for the great works that his daughter Isabella carried out in succession after her death.
She was the wife of Ercole Del Balzo, related in direct line to the Orsini, a noble and powerful family, absolute protagonist together with the Warrior of the most golden years that Campagna has lived. It can be asserted that the d'Apia family was fundamental and a forerunner for our future fortunes. Isabella, once assumed the Campagnase fiefdom, together with her husband respected her father's love for Campagna (a passion certainly fruit of the sacredness, beauty and wholesomeness of the local air) and thought well of further enriching the place by asking the Pope for It was time to build, near the medieval church, a structure with rooms that could accommodate the stay of the Franciscan monks.
The Holy Father agreed and from then on a thriving business began. The works began with great enthusiasm in the early 1300s. The original church, enlarged in the rooms and restructured at the expense of the spouses of Apia-Del Balzo in 1281 (as well as bears the inscription carved in a column placed near today's altar) , it can still be admired in a tangible way today according to some elements that still exist such as the lions placed at the entrance to the Temple.
Once inside, it can be seen on the right side of the colonnade and recognizable by the lowered ceiling in front of that placed on the central naves, by the beautiful monumental altar dedicated to the Holy Virgin of Avigliano, moved to its current position following the expansion works carried out between the late 1400s and early 1500s, thus giving life to today's structure. The wealthiest and most noble families of the city participated in the works in a conspicuous way, thus ensuring burial within the Sacred Walls after the pious transit and the possibility of installing their own heraldic coat of arms in the cloister as an honor for the contribution given. Further merit must be recognized to Isabella: in memory of her father who loved to stay in the Shrine during the summer, she established a 15-day fair, from 15 August until the end of the month, to "encourage" pilgrimages to Campagna.
Once the work was completed, then, it was decided to create a religious-recreational movement that would begin on the first day of August and end on the day of the feast dedicated to the Assumption, consisting in going on foot from the town center to the church in the mountains, thus dedicating fifteen days to the Madonna in full religious spirit.
Today as then, in a heartfelt and devoted way, the "fortnight" is carried out which culminates on August 15th of each year, where religious and festive activities are organized in honor of the Madonna of Avigliano. And it is precisely to the Holy Virgin of the Lucanian town that two of the most heartfelt popular legends in the city are composed.
In fact, it is said that the Madonna appeared twice in Campagna and for this reason the church was built. However, there are two versions of the legend. The first tells that the statue of the Madonna was found twice in that area and the people of Avigliana, after having already brought it home for the first time, having ascertained Mary's clear will to remain in place, reached an agreement with the citizens : the statue remains in Campagna as long as they build a church in his honour. The second is decidedly less ecclesial.
Some people from Campagna working in Avigliano, struck by its beauty, stole the statue and found it the following morning on an elder tree, moving it to Campagna at night and thus mystifying the apparition of the Madonna. Of course, given the enormous time distance (we are talking about 1240) all this cannot be documented; the fact is that thanks to these legends we Campagnasi can enjoy so much history and so much beauty. The building today has two naves which divide, as already mentioned, part of the original church and that due to later expansions.
Several altars make up the perimeter which culminates with the beautiful monumental altar dedicated to the Madonna of Avigliano in the central part of the Temple. Still a sumptuous ceiling in gilded wood accompanies the visitor in the "new" part with various canvases from the 15th and 16th centuries, which lead to the back-altar where there is a large Crucifix located immediately after a small door that leads to the sacristy, anticipating the corridor that leads to the majestic cloister. From here it is possible to admire an elegant fountain, surrounded by a stone colonnade and wall frescoes, in Renaissance style, similar to those present in the city.
It is also possible to access another beauty of the place: the forest on the back. Here there is another piece of absolute importance for the history of the place and of the city: in 1440 San Bernardino of Siena went to Campagna to settle disputes within the Franciscan order and verify its work (his presence which between another is linked to two very important historical events, the aforementioned denomination of the Most Holy Name of God in the article concerning the former Dominican convent and the ecclesial passage that the friars had from Minimi di San Francesco to Osservanti) and yet another legend about the sanctuary is linked to these.
It is said that the Sienese saint, while staying in the structure, seized by a consistent thirst and not finding water to quench his thirst, prayed to God so that he could quench it. Suddenly water miraculously came out of a rock which quenched his thirst and he was able to praise the Eternal Father again. To date, in addition to the cell that housed the pious, in the corridor leading to the forest there is a fountain called "the fountain of San Bernardino" to commemorate the miraculous event. For centuries the Franciscans had an easy and peaceful life with the exception of the events linked to the enactment of the Napoleonic laws and to those issued following the unification of Italy which provided for the confiscation of ecclesial property by the state.
It was precisely these conditions that largely determined the abandonment of the friars. At the beginning of the last century, after the last friars left the structure, now reduced to a very bad state, what we can easily define as the savior of the Sanctuary takes over, Mons. Carmine Cesarano. Many bishops of the past were attracted by the structure but only Cesarano had the key intuition to safeguard it: he asked the Municipality, which in the meantime had become the owner, to be able to use it (and take care of it) to transfer the activities of the Seminary Body in the summer season ; the Municipality agreed, since it was not economically speaking in good health, thus determining the survival and delivery to history of one of the symbolic places of our City.
Text edited by Cristian Viglione.
Revisions: Francesco Pezzuti.