Categories: Points of interest

Merino’s Sanctuary

The tradition has it that on the Scialmarino beach was found a wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has since assumed the name of Santa Maria di Merino. In the same place, about seven km from Vieste, where once stood the old Merinum, the shrine of Santa Maria di Merino was built on the ruins of an old church (dating back to XI-XII century). Of the former town of Merinum, the old church is the only remains, along with the valuable wooden sculpture, probably carved between the XIV and XV century, which was probably part of a larger group of images. The chapel built in honour of the Virgin, soon became an important spiritual centre for Vieste and for the surrounding area. On September 12, 1480 the Turks, having looted the town, burned the church of Santa Maria di Merino; but fortunately the statue was spared because it was kept in the sacristy of the Cathedral of the Assumption. Later, in the XVII century, when the population moved in Vieste, it was built a chapel to preserve the sacred icon, in the cathedral of the city. Currently, the statue stands in the chapel inside the Cathedral of Vieste. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Merino is artistically and architecturally poor, with rural features and without an architectural line. The central part is the oldest (dating to the XI-XII centuries) and it is set on the remaining walls of a Roman villa. The three other chapels have been built from 1831 – 1861 to 1909, as testified by the internal decor. The Sanctuary occupies the heart of the Roman villa in Merino, and is surrounded by archaeological remains. In the sanctuary are depicted two historical events: the martyrdom of San Marino, the Venetian hermit monk who came to Mount Gargano, and was killed by the Saracens on August 6 of 988; the hospitality offered to San Pietro Celestino, (Pope Celestine V) that, in his second attempt to reach the Dalmatian coast in search of solitude, in 1295 landed on the beach in front of the sanctuary. After a few days he was recognized by the locals and captured as a prisoner of Boniface VIII. The religious festival is held on May 9th with a procession on which the statue is carried on the Faithfull’s shoulders until the sanctuary.

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