Taking a tour of the Altars of the Sanctuary, the centuries of prayer and miracles
The church was built 1580-1600 in honor of Our Lady of Grace. Her statue is situated above the high altar and dates back to around 1750, the face of Our Lady and the Baby Jesus has never been restored. The ceiling of the church depicts the story of Our Lady, which has been restored in 1717 and again in 1995. The Sanctuary of St Philomena, Virgin Martyr and Wonder-worker, was following the translation of her sacred relics in 1805. From the very beginning the Sanctuary became a place of pilgrimage. Devotees of the Saint flocked to this shrine in order to pray before her relics. Wonders and miracles became the order of the day! Saints and Blessed, Kings and Queens, Princes and paupers came to invoke the great Wonder-Worker. St Philomena’s most illustrious pilgrim was Pope Blessed Pius IX, who celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at her Altar on November 7, 1849. The Ven. Pauline Jaricot, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, came on pilgrimage in 1835 and was cured of a fatal illness while at the Shrine. A 30-year restoration program was begun by the present Rector, Msgr. Giovanni Braschi, the beautiful Sanctuary Church been sympathetically redecorated, a comfortable pilgrimage centre has also been created for the spiritual life of the Sanctuary. It is now able to provide accommodation for devotees who wish to spend some time at the feet of St Philomena
The construction of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena or the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was begun in 1617 and completed around 1630 thanks to funds raised from cutting the woods of Vallicelle.
The church was built in the shape of a Latin cross with a nave, an elegant dome, Renaissance style and an altar adorned with precious and rare marbles.
On the eastern side there was a bell tower 50 meters high that on top had a dome with a bronze ball topped with a flag and a cross. On 30th May 1673 the tower was struck by lightning and collapsed damaging the church. It was rebuilt in a manner faithful with the support of the population. In the mid-eighteen century two bell towers were inserted. The facade is covered with stucco of color yellow and flanked by two towers: one for the clock, the other for the bell. The architecture is neoclassical with Ionic and Corinthian capitals.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the early 1800s becomes the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena. The body of the Saint, found in Rome on 25th May 1802, was brought to Mugnano by the priest Don Francesco de Lucia on 10th August 1805. Don Francesco de Lucia was the first rector of the Sanctuary, who founded and extended the devotion of Saint Philomena in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies and across the ocean to the Americas.
Great personalities have visited the shrine by rich gifts: the Cardinal Ruffo-Cilla of Naples, Leone XII, Pope Gregory XVI, Pius IX who made a pilgrimage accompanied by King Ferdinand II on 7th November 1849, Pauline Jaricott (founder of the Pontifical Missionary Works) miracle by Saint Philomena in Mugnano on 10th August 1835, the Saint Cure of Ars, Maria Cristina of Savoy, wife of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, Leone XIII.
Among the devoted and promoters of the cult of St. Philomena popes there were Leone XII and Leone XVI after the miracle of Pauline Jaricott, which took place before the altar of St. Philomena on 10th August 1835, made the official cult of the saint in all the church; Leo XIII promulgator of the universal Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena, St. Pius X, a great devotee who enriched the Sanctuary of fine gifts. The nobility in memory of the sanctuary was constituted by the major principles ( churches , glass window, statues) in Europe.
Altars to the Right of the Church
1. Chapel of St. Anthony – the statue dates back to around 1750. Annually his feast is celebrated in the town in June. The festa dates back to before the body of St Philomena arrived at this church.
2. Chapel of the Tomb of St Philomena – these are the original tiles from the tomb of St Philomena discovered in the catacombs of St. Pricilla in 1802. Donated to the Sanctuary by Pope Leo XII. The picture above this altar is of the martyrdom of St Philomena. It was painted in the Royal Palace of Casserta in 1859 by Gabriella Burboni.
3. Chapel of St Rose of Lima and St. Catherine of Alexandria the picture dates back to 1550 approx.
4. Bronze sculptor of St Philomena – created in 2005 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the translation of the sacred body.
5. Entrance to the Sacristy – which was restored 2002 though the donated by the 1st group Battenti and the Paulo Corbisiero & Antonietta Braschi
6. Entrance to the Pilgrims House
7. Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue – from around 1896, this statue has never been restored.
Altars to the Left of the Church
1. The tomb of Don Francesco de Lucia – the first Rector of the Sanctuary born in the town and first devotee of St. Philomena. His work was honored by the privilege of being buried within the Sanctuary. His tomb was restored in 2005 and the bronze bust put above in his memory.
2. Crucifix Chapel – the chapel of confession. This was created by the present Rector, Msg. Braschi as a spiritual place of reflection and reconciliation. The confessional booths are from 1974. The Crucifix dates back to the 1600’s. This was discovered by Msgr. Braschi in the Sanctuary and had been badly handled. Luigi Falco restored to its natural state this and had it analyzed and dated in Milan. The Altar is made up of three pieces of marble: 1600, 1700, and 1800. Found within the Sanctuary. Left in this chapel is a “Lapide” a piece of marble with historical information regarding the devotion. Stained glass window was donated by the Archconfraternity center in Scotland. Outside of this chapel situated above the doors is a statue of St. Joseph from 1700’s which was restored in 2002. To the right of the entrance is St Blasé dating back to 1750 and was restored in 1986.
3. St. Philomena Scared Altar – 10th August 1805. This is the new altar (not the original) which was donated 1877 by the people of France headed by Mr Garrigou at the time of Fr Luis Petit who founded the confraternity in France. The oil lamp was initiated at the time St Philomena was enshrined. Within the Urn is the paper mache statue of St Philomena within this is the full body of St. Philomena. Looking toward this to the bottom left is the vial of dried blood situated with the cement and halved. Just in front of this altar is where Ven. Pauling Jaricot sat when she was miraculously healed.
4. Miraculous Altar – this is the original altar of St Philomena chapel. It was moved in 1875 for the construction of a new and more elaborate altar. This is known as the miraculous altar because as it was being put in place it cracked into two separate pieces. However the work carried on and as the sculptor put the altar in place the two pieces sealed together in front of the workmen who were gather in front. When in its original position, at this Altar many Cardinals and Bishops celebrated mass including Pope Pius IX.
5. Statue of St. John Vianney & St. Philomena – Paper mache statue from a famous school of art in Lece, Southern Italy in 1890. The sanctuary order this work done to demonstrate the great love and devotion that St. John Vianney has for our Saint. Through him bore the devotion of the cord. He attributed many miracles in his church to St Philomena.
6. St. Ann with her daughter Mary as a child – donation in 2003 by the family Dr. Elvira Vasta and the statue dates back to 1896 approximately.
7. Saints & Martyrs Reliquary – Dates back to 1700. An antique collection of relics of various saints and martyrs. The most famous is St John Vianney. A reliquary has been artistically constructed and created by the artist Gennaro Ippolito
8. Miraculous Statue of St. Philomena – In 1806 Cardinal Louis Ruffo Scilla (1750-1832), Archbishop of Naples (1802-1832), donated a wooden statue of Saint Philomena to the Sanctuary containing in its chest cavity a reliquary which enclosed a small bone particle belonging to the Martyr, as reported by Ippolito.
This statue is brought every year in procession through the streets of Mugnano, on the second Sunday of August. On August 10, 1823, during the procession, the statue became heavier. The next day, the statue sweated fragrant “manna” for three consecutive days. Regarding this, there are two public records; one signed by the Vicar Foraneo and by 17 priests of the clergy of Mugnano, the other by the Mayor, the Chancellor, and from the Members of the Council. These records were deposited in the municipal archive and in Our Lady of Grace Church in Mugnano. In memory of this, a marble inscription was placed in the Church of Our Lady of Grace. The archway of this statue was restored in 2005 and donated by the Beniamino Scettino
9. St. Pio of Pedricesimo – commissioned and donated to the Sanctuary by Sister Bertilla (1934 – 2011). Who dedicated 25 years of continuous service to the Sanctuary and the devotion of St. Philomena. Through her loyal service the Sanctuary became home to devotees worldwide, a pilgrims rest of the weary where they knew she would take care of them.
The church was built in the shape of a Latin cross with a nave, an elegant dome, Renaissance style and an altar adorned with precious and rare marbles. Depincted inside the dome are the 4 evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
The bronze door of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena was sculpted by William Savini and donated by the municipality of Mugnano del Cardinale. The portal consists of 6 panels in bas-relief depicting the history of the Sanctuary.
The first panel of the door on the left shows the construction of the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. In the central panel depicts the translation of the sacred body of St. Philomena, while in the third panel is reproduced Cure of Ars that promotes the glories of Saint Philomena.
The first panel on the right shows Saint Philomena protecting the country of Mugnano del Cardinale. In the central panel depicts the miracle of Pauline Jaricot occurred on 08th august of 1835. In the last panel at the bottom there Saint Philomena with the royal family of Naples and the Popes wishing the hope of peace for the family of Saint Philomena.
the base of the portal shows the year of construction and the symbols of Saint Philomena and the symbol of the city of Mugnano Cardinal.
The portal was blessed by Cardinal Luigi Poggi in the jubilee of 2000.
Finished 1995 to represent the martyrdom of saint Philomena by the Rector. Statues from 1850’s existed in the sanctuary
The central hall of the shrine is surmounted by a wooden plank in Baroque style of the early 1600 (XVII century),the author is unknown. The lacunar is made of 9 panels including 3 central and 6 lateral. The three central panels represent the glory of Mary: the first panel depicts the dormitio, the central Mary’s Assumption into heaven, and the third the coronation. The six lateral panels represent the most important moments of Jesus’ and Mary’s life. In other rectangular panels are shown the theological virtues.
The dresser has been restored in 1717 by De Pascalis.
Work carried out at the end of 1900’s centuary, on the occasion of the celebration of the first centenary of the transfer of the body of Saint Philomena. It is surmounted by 2 columns and is composed of about 2000 barrels. The sound box is inlaid in gold. The work was carried out by Neapolitan artists and the architect was Ippolito.