Set among the rocks, in an impervious area of the Pollino mountains in the province of Cosenza, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Pettoruto towers like a beacon in the darkness.
The name Pettoruto derives from 'petruto', which means 'rocky', and is the place name given by the inhabitants of the valley to this impervious and picturesque area.
The history of the shrine is linked to the discovery of a statue that a sculptor, unjustly accused of murder, created here during his time as a fugitive. The precious sculpture was discovered by chance by a deaf-mute shepherd boy, who was told by the Virgin, after she restored his speech and hearing, to ask the people to build a church in her name.
From that moment on, the shrine became the destination of numerous pilgrimages from all over the Esaro Valley and the whole of Calabria. Enlarged in the 17th century, the church was devastated by the 1783 earthquake and later restored.
In 1903 the statue was crowned and the shrine was attached to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1979, His Holiness St. John Paul II elevated the Shrine and Minor Basilica, affirming it as one of the most important Marian sites in southern Italy.
The Basilica of Maria Santissima Incoronata in Pettoruto remains open throughout the year, although in the first week of September, during the feast of the Madonna del Pettoruto, the basilica is flooded with pilgrims and the valley resounds with the songs of the Latin and Greek-Byzantine tradition.
The interior of the Basilica is divided into three naves with round arches entirely covered in marble. In the central vault, a magnificent painting of the Immaculate Conception, inspired by the verse from St. John's Apocalypse: "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev 12:1), towers above the precious statue of the Virgin.