Viggiano and the Black Madonna

Between history and legend
The Sacro Monte di Viggiano, at 1725 m above sea level, is the site of the most important Marian sanctuary in the region, the one dedicated to the Black Madonna, queen of Viggiano, officially proclaimed “Protector” of Basilicata in 1991 by Pope John Paul II.
Portrayed in a wooden statue, this sacred figure has strongly humanised features with robes and details that make her regal and opulent, a true queen to be adored. An important icon in the Lucanian religious landscape which, according to legend, first appeared on the Sacro Monte between 1200 and 1300 to a group of shepherds: sudden flashes attracted their attention, a prelude to something supernatural. The news was immediately reported to Bishop Omerio, then to the Pope, who ordered the clergy and the people to go to the site of the apparition and dig. A few feet away, the statue was found. It had been lying there since 1050, after the destruction wrought by the Saracens in the ancient Grumentum. Exactly, it is said that the statue was created by a group of Italian-Greek monks who had settled in these lands previously occupied by the Basilian monks, replacing the veneration of St. Nicholas, practised by the latter, with the cult of the Theotokos, the Mother of God. The work was then hidden in a cavity of the great mountain to save it from Saracen barbarism and remained there until its revelation.
Thus, began a story of profound faith and devotion.

The devotion of the faithful
The atmosphere surrounding the summit of Sacro Monte today is mystical and the pilgrimages held in honour of the Black Madonna on the first Sunday of May and the first Sunday in September are highly emotional. Her image triumphs among faithful and devotees from all over Basilicata and beyond, who, united in a solemn procession, walk 12 km with prayers, religious songs and well wishes in the name of the Queen of Viggiano.
The sacred effigy is carried on the shoulders of pilgrims from the town centre to the sanctuary on Sacro Monte in May and then returned to the town in September. Again, this choice has a precise meaning dictated by the legend. It is said that after the statue was discovered, it was taken to the town but soon disappeared to reappear again on the Sacro Monte, where the Sanctuary stands today and where, as per her wishes, it is brought back every year in the Marian month.
People from neighbouring towns and distant places flock to praise the protector of the Lucanian people. The streets are filled with faithful who climb the paths that lead to the top of the mountain to join the choir of sacred prayers that ascend to heaven, pronounced in her name.
It is interludes like this that allow seekers of authenticity to experience the soul of places first-hand, to touch their history, to understand their creed. The strength of knowing such real territories, as evidenced by the pilgrimages but also religious tourism, both of which are growing in importance, knows no bounds or limits. One travels kilometres, winding roads and steep paths to follow one’s own spirituality or, in the case of the religious tourist, to enter a cultural world other than one’s own. In both cases the meeting turns into a dialogue between territories, between cultures and, finally, between two antithetical dimensions, body and spirit.

Ancient sheep track of the Madonna di Viggiano
It crossed the thick vegetation of Sacro Monte, the ancient sheep track of the Madonna di Viggiano, gently advancing into an increasingly evocative atmosphere of silence and the sounds of nature at the same time. It climbed one of the high and jagged slopes of the great mountain, crossed by the sacred prayers of the devotees who walked along it, all together, united by faith and the desire to reach the top where the Sanctuary awaited the procession with the simulacrum of the Black Madonna on their shoulders, Queen of Viggiano and Protector of Basilicata.
That path, which in a mystical atmosphere and a green setting guided pilgrims towards the home of their Venerata, was flanked and gradually replaced by the municipal road in 1968.
However, the spiritual value of that ancient sheep track has made its echoes heard over the years, finally prevailing over the sense of comfort provided by the paved road. And so today it has finally been restored with a series of measures to allow visitors to walk along it with ease. Revisited in a modern key, it features stone and wood steps, safety fences, palisades that delimit the walkable areas, separating them from the more dangerous ones, as well as connections to a dense network of paths which gives it considerable added value, linked to the world of hiking, horse riding and mountain biking. A real asset for the surrounding area.

MUSIC as an expression of religion and art.
Music has always been a form of language. Music and religion, as well as art, have always been universal phenomena of humankind, forms of expression that find their presence indiscriminately in time and space, throughout history and in the most disparate places. Tools that often complement each other by joining in a single mission: to transmit the emotions linked to the spiritual dimension. Folk songs, in particular, reflect this pattern well, while at the same time revealing the origins of the land in which they are born.
Viggiano’s harp is an example of this. A hinge, as Sparagna himself says, between Magna Graecia and the land of Lucania, two different worlds whose contact is still narrated and handed down between