Passo della Cisa, is an Apennine pass located approximately 1041 m above sea level, between the provinces of Parma and Massa Carrara, and is considered to be the boundary between the Ligurian Apennines and the Tuscan – Emilian. My two last posts about the pass can be found here and here
The pass is crossed by a road whose existence is documented since the Byzantine and Lombard times; in the early eighth century, King Liutprand built an hospice and an Abbey in Berceto, since then the road through the pass was called “Romea” also called “Francigena” for many pilgrims who came from France headed to Rome.
On the pass stands up the “Sanctuary of our lady of the Guard” better known as “Sanctuary della Cisa” erected in 1921 and blessed as a church in 1922. On 29 August 1930, a crowned statue of the Madonna was placed inside becoming a place of worship and a stopover for pilgrims that descend to the Lunigiana, on its way to Rome.
At the end of a steep stone staircase, there is the small church behind which the visitors can look towards the hills. The church appears as a stone building, greyish with stained-glass windows.
Looking at the building from the outside is possible to guess the ground plan of the same: a nave with a wooden roof gable, with on the front side, a small porch, and two small aisles covered by a wooden roof with a flap. Behind the main building stands a bell tower, which is also made of the same stone used for the church, topped by an iron cross. All the perimeter walls are characterized by the presence of multicolored stained glass, green, pink, blue, yellow etc. that with the passage of light from outside to inside create very suggestive colored light beams.
The Madonna della Guardia (Our Lady of the Guard) venerated in the Sanctuary, since 1965 was considered the patron saint of athletes from around the world, and it is for this reason that in it there are many sweaters donated by the greatest champions of many sports, from cycling to football, to athletics. The giving of their shirt is seen by sportsmen as an act of devotion to Our Lady and especially a thank you for the same victories and for the brilliant career they had lived. Today we continue to worship the Virgin and in her honor every August 29th is held a bycicle race that draws big names of this sport. At the entrance is placed the inscription “Here you enter to pray God, and you come out to love your neighbor.”
Finally, it is important to remember that this Shrine as well as being loved by sportsmen is a gathering place for motorcyclists for which the road leading to the Sanctuary is one of the most beautiful roads to go, full of bends with soft curves, framed by chestnut, which opens as it climbs towards the pass.