Monte Santo di Lussari – Sanctuary
August 10, 2014
Monte Lussari is not only an alpine ski and hiking area, but also has a sanctuary at the summit. The sanctuary has been a pilgrimage site for Slavic, Italian and German peoples for centuries because of its location at the borders of Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
According to a traditional story, in 1360 a shepherd from Camporosso lost his sheep and went looking for them on M.te Lussari. He found his sheep in some pine shrubbery. With great wonder he noticed that in the center of the bushes there was a little statue of a Madonna with the Baby Jesus. He took the statue down from the mountain and brought it to the Parish priest of Camporosso. The following morning the statue was again back on Lussari, surrounded by kneeling sheep. This event occurred another time. The Parish priest relayed the events to the Patriarch of Aquileia. The Patriarch ordered that a chapel should be constructed on the site where the statue was found.
A church was built in the 1500’s at the site of the original chapel,. The church stood standing through lightning strikes, a fire that burnt down part of the structure, other natural disasters, but was tenaciously repaired. It was bombed and destroyed in World War I. The church was rebuilt another time and is still today a sanctuary.
Today the pilgrims, hikers, skiers, can reach the summit with the gondola lift. There is a lot of activity in the parking lot full of buses, campers, cars and a line-up for the lift. The person who was in the gondola with us explains that today was the annual relay race – staffeta. Runners race up the hill from Camporosso along what is known as the Pilgrims Trail to the Sanctuary – 5.75 km with a change in altitude (dislevello) of 970 m. He tells us that this first leg of the relay takes only 36 minutes to complete! There are three stages to the race.
We come out of the ski lift area and on the summit in front of us is the charming view of the Sanctuary, the tightly grouped houses around it and an impressive backdrop of mountains. You could stay here all day and just admire the view of the Julian Alps and Cima Cacciatori, where we are headed on this Sunday walk.
A wide road leads up to the church and houses. The road narrows as we enter the small village. On both sides of the street are pizzerias, bars, tables and benches for the patrons and small shops selling alpine and religious themed souvenirs. On the menu outside one restaurant are featured Tagliatelli with roe deer, wild boar or porcini sauce. Lots of people are seated at the terraces that kind of hang off the back of the buildings – with that splendid view all around them. The feeling is lively, rustic and alpine.
We head down what in winter is a ski run and encounter the relay racers. Some are on the second leg dashing headlong down the hill. Some are still on the first leg and are running with determined effort and or walking with determined effort up that hill. Their running gear is emblazoned with what I think are perhaps team names. All the runners are wiry and tanned and they shout encouragement to one another.
A picturesque start to today’s walk on a sunny August morning!