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The sanctuary of monserrato

Località Monserrato

In 1606 José Pons y Leòn of the Dukes of Arcos, a Spanish governor of Naples and first governor of the Lungone square, nicknamed "Longone" by the locals because he was tall and wiry, got caught up suddenly in a scirocco storm while he was sailing near the Argentario coast. The sea was so rough it became too dangerous to keep on sailing. Being a devout Spaniard, the governor started praying to Our Lady of Monseérrat. It was God's wish that his ship docked at the safe sea of the Gulf of Porto Longone. Don José was so grateful that he had a sanctuary built in honour of Our Lady of Monserrato, in some way resembling the one in Catalonia bearing the same name near Barcelona.

The sanctuary was built in a valley of Mount Castello, three kilometres from Porto Azzurro, partly because the wild countryside full of pointed summits reminded the governor of "Monserrat", and partly because there was water there. Recent studies, plus the fact that Etruscan pottery fragments have been found in the area at the foot of the hill where the sanctuary is, may well mean there once was an Etruscan temple and maybe even a Roman one[...] The extra part next to the church wasn't built until 1768; the interior walls, flaking in some parts, have brought the frescos underneath to the light. In his will written on May 17th 1616, Don José also decided to donate the church. He left a mill to Reale, as well as some grounds, buildings and wealth to the Augustinian friars of Piombino so they could hold a mass there every day. He also left a copy of the Black Madonna.

In 1759, when the Lungone square became part of the reign of Naples, a commission was set up to look for the riches belonging to the sanctuary. Only then did they come to realise that the patrimony was actually much less than what they thought, because much of it seemingly belonged to other people, although no written document of actually how this had come about was ever found ("declaratiòn ni indicio de como los mismos han alienados"). The commission came to the conclusion that any deeds of sale had gone lost ("se habian perdido las copias de los actos de compra"). It is very likely that the lost wealth had either been usurped or sold illegally.

The sanctuary has been famous since the XVll and XVll centuries because it was a pilgrims' destination.Four or five hermits stayed in the small convent attached to the church [...] In 1722, the governor Don Diego d'Alarcon, worried about the shortage of religious help for the soldiers, asked Philip V for some friars, so the King gave orders for the hospital in Longone to have a room specifically for the Fathers of the Order of Ambrosia of San Pietro di Alcantara who lived in Monserrato. When, in 1729, S. Paolo della Croce settled in Monte Argentario, he went to Elba many times, and decided he wanted to open a convent for his Order, The Passionists, so in 1735 he asked the governor for permission to remain in Monserrato. Unfortunately, after consulting the Augustian fathers and other ecclesiastics, the answer was no. At the end of the century the Passionists tried again to obtain Monserrato. The Bishop of Massa asked the ecclesiastics of Porto Longone what they thought, but again they were not in favour, for two reasons: 1) the town was poor with no financial resources so there would have been hardly any offerings during the masses; 2) there was no reason for sending the chaplain and the two hermits away from the sanctuary.

In September 1814 Napoleon, accompanied by Pons and Bertrand wanted to see the Monserrato sanctuary. The Augustinian friars of Piombino became the owners of the sanctuary, which then lay forgotten for years until the end of the XlX century.

Since then the sanctuary has been restored and is open for praying. Every year on September 8ththe Our Lady of Monserrato is celebrated in Porto Azzurro.


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