The Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine delle Grazie in Curtatone, near Mantua, is of very ancient foundation. It is attested in documents already around the year one thousand as Santa Maria di Reverso, but almost nothing is known about its earliest construction. Tradition has it that on the banks of the Mincio valleys stood a shrine containing a sacred image to which not only fishermen and farmers, but also many pilgrims were devoted because of the healings that occurred there. For this reason, the santella was demolished to make way for a larger place of worship.

The interior of the Sanctuary is Gothic in style, with a single nave. The vaults, decorated with floral whorls, feature precious Murano glass chandeliers and a stuffed crocodile. The walls are covered by a wooden deck containing some sixty polymaterial statues depicting illustrious visitors and those miraculously blessed by the Virgin, and covered with very fine wax votive offerings. This is the only surviving example in the world of this ancient custom, also known, for example, at the Annunziata in Florence or in Viterbo, where, however, nothing remains of these sculptures. Among the chapels, the one belonging to the Castiglioni family is certainly worth mentioning, the first on entering on the right-hand side, in which the famous humanist Baldassarre Castiglioni is buried. The space is, moreover, due to the genius of Giulio Romano. Right next to the entrance is also a support containing a portion of the asphalt of the square, with the 'signature' of Pope John Paul II, affixed in chalk as a complement to the Last Judgement made by madonnari on the occasion of his visit on 23 June 1991. In the apse, in the marble temple commissioned by Maria Gonzaga, is the Mater Gratiae table, dating back to the end of the 14th century, precious for art history but even more so for popular devotion.

The current appearance of the temple dates back to the end of the 14th century, when the captain of the people, Francesco I Gonzaga, vowed to rebuild the ancient Sanctuary in modern lines, invoking the Virgin Mary for the cessation of a plague afflicting Mantua and its territory.

This happened and the Sanctuary was rebuilt in the solid Lombard Gothic lines that can still be admired today. The building site opened in 1399 and the church was consecrated in 1406. The religious complex, which was completed by a large convent, was entrusted to the Franciscan friars, who ran it until its suppression at the time of Napoleon. Over the centuries, there were many illustrious visitors: Pontiffs, Emperors, nobles (suffice it to mention the names of Pius II and Charles V, whose statues appear inside the temple). But also pilgrims from all over, who brought with them gifts and ex-votos. The sanctuary itself is an ex voto and is unique in the world for the presence of unusual elements, such as the polymath statues on the sides of the nave or the stuffed crocodile hanging from the vaults.

Between the 15th and 16th centuries, side chapels, some of great value, were added at the behest of numerous noble families.

In 1521, it is worth mentioning the construction of the large portico that ran around the enormous square. This was to welcome the merchants who, on the Feast of the Assumption, populated the space in front of the Sanctuary on the occasion of the ancient fair, which in 1425 was moved to Grazie from Porto Mantovano. With Napoleon, half of the square was alienated and is now occupied by residential buildings that are inconsistent with the space, while of the portico only the shaft corresponding to the church façade and a few arches incorporated into the houses along the eastern side of the square survive.

With the Napoleonic suppression, the huge convent, comprising four cloisters and numerous rooms, decorated in a prestigious manner, was also demolished, with only a few structures left to serve the church. After this destruction, what remained of the complex was restored and entrusted to the Franciscans, then to the Passionists and, from the first half of the 20th century, to the diocese of Mantua.


The life of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Graces is marked by the tolling of the bells, and by the clock on the façade that beats the time of day and liturgy.

The Sanctuary is ready to welcome you early in the morning: at 7.30 a.m. the large wooden doors open to the faithful, then close at 12 noon, while in the afternoon the temple is open from 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. In the hours free from the celebrations, it hosts believers and pilgrims who gather in groups or individually inside the church to dedicate a prayer, a thanksgiving, a reflection or a promise to Our Lady.

The Sanctuary is particularly alive at the most important liturgical times: Advent, Christmas, Easter and Marian feasts. The month of May is particularly rich, while the feast of the Assumption, the temple's titular saint, is celebrated on 15 August, at the same time as the Antichissima Fiera takes place. On those days, the town sees over a hundred thousand visitors arrive: pilgrims at all hours of the day and night, fairgoers and fans of the work of the madonnari. On the square, which is the churchyard of the Sanctuary, between 14 and 15 August, in fact, up to two hundred madonnari from all over the world work non-stop for 24 hours, turning the asphalt with their colourful works into a colourful carpet on which hymns are sung to the Virgin, to God and to the Saints, in a spectacle that is unique in the world.

Just in the small lawn in front of the temple, on the right-hand side, stands the monument with the bust of Pope John Paul II, the last pontiff, in order of time, to visit the Sanctuary on the occasion of the Apostolic Visit to Mantua held on 22 and 23 June 1991 to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of San Luigi Gonzaga.

For any requests or information, please contact the Rector, Don Giovanni Lucchi.

For further information click here: Sanctuary bibliography and insights

Santuario delle Grazie
Pick a flower for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace