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Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca




I've been going through some of my photos from my June trip to Italy, which included a week in Bologna, and a sweaty day walking under the 666 porticos that form the Portico di San Luca, which leads from the city's centre up, up, up to the very beautiful Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca.)

The 4-kilometre climb up the Colle, or Monte dell Guardia, was pretty grueling as the humidity level in the Emilia-Romagna region is extremely high, even when one is shaded from the sizzling sun by the porticos.

But I had read Girasoli's description of the climb and the sanctuary, and was anxious to see it for myself. (I urge you to check out the link to her blog, Girasoli's photos are always fantastic!)

Along the way, I found some interesting art, icons, and tiny chapels tucked into a few of the arches on the route up.


And at the top, the views were fantastic.




For centuries, pilgrims have made this journey, seeking a miracle from the venerated Black Madonna -- an icon attributed to St. Luke, according to one legend -- which is housed in the beautiful and peaceful Sanctuary church. The church also boasts some wonderful art, including paintings by Guido Reni (a local boy who has an entire room devoted to his work, in Bologna's Pinacoteca Nazionale.)

According to Wikipedia (the source for the top photo) the monumental roofed arcade was built between 1674 and1793, and was meant to protect the icon as it was paraded up the hill. A yearly procession proceeded from the church of San Pietro in the center of Bologna up to the Sanctuary along this path.

Apparently, a church or chapel of some kind has existed atop the hill for about a thousand years.

Comments (15)

Great post and photos! I'm off to Venice in 9 days.

I think your photos are fantastic!! My favorite is the photo of of all of the steps (2nd photos). Thank you for the compliment on my photos and for the link. You are much too kind :)

Brad'll Do It:

Are there any other ways of attaining the summit other than walking (stumbling, crawling) to the top? Your second "views" photo looks like a painting, which is ironic considering so many of your blog topics!


Thanks Leslie! I know you'll have a wonderful time in Venice, I'm very envious.

Girasoli, thank you! You're such a talented photographer that I wouldn't try to compare myself with you.

That photo of the stairs really gives a sense of how steep the climb is -- as you well know!

Hi Brad! There is a road that runs along the porticos and even cuts underneath in a few spots. Which is a good thing, it's such a beautiful site that it should be accessible to everyone.

Although, some people that should walk it, don't -- while I was there, a school bus full of rowdy tweens rushed in waaay to energetic to have hiked up. And they should have, just to calm them all down!

Beautiful building. I love learning about new places. Bologna is definitely on my list if I ever get back to Italy.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, beautiful photos and wonderful description. I also enjoyed Girasoli's photos and blog post about this beautfiul sanctuary. The amazing views and close up look at the Sanctuary does seem to make every step of the climb to see it worth it.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

Your photos are beautiful. I love the pinkish-orange color of this church and would love to take this walk some day. What does the Black Madonna icon look like? Pretty cool that they built this arcade just for her.


Marta, I think you'd enjoy Bologna. There's a lot of history, but with its university and students, it's also really vibrant. Lots to see and do!

Kathy, it really is an interesting -- if grueling -- hike up and such a beautiful site that it's worth every step.

Annie, the orange-y tint to the colour of the sanctuary church and some of the porticos is interesting. I wonder if it comes from the type of soil or clay in the area. I know in some towns Umbria, for example, there is a lot of pink stone that is drawn from Mount Subasio.

As for the Black Madonna, she and the Christ child aren't actually black (like most Black Madonnas that I've seen in Italy.) Instead, the background is black and the painting/icon is very Byzantine, two-dminsional with Christ actually looking like a small adult rather than a baby.

Barb Cabot:

I agree with Marta, Balogna is a city I want to get to know. You've shared so many interesting aspects of your trip. I love this post and want to see that view at the top for myself.

Terry (teaberry):

I love your photos, too, Sandra. They really convey your love of place, and your great photographic eye.


Barb, I hope you're able to visit Bologna sometime -- it really is an interesting, vibrant city.

Hi Terry, thanks!

Lovely photos, Sandra. I'm determined on making this walk in the near future. Seeing the Black Madonna and the magnificent views is motivation enough to do the climb.


Thanks Maria, it's worth the effort -- and then you feel like you can order anything you like at the excellent little Trattoria Meloncello back at ground level!


What beautiful photos!

I commend you for doing the walk. If it weren't humid, I could do it, but humidity just does me in.


Thanks, Nancy. The humidity was overwhelming, I looked like a drowned rat by the time I reached the top! And I saw a few men arrive wearing T-shirts that were completely transparent with sweat.

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