- Religious Tourism
THE SANCTUARY OF “MADONNA DEL CARMINE”
Not far from Desenzano and Salò, in San Felice del Benaco (BS), on the west side called "Valtenesi", is the oldest Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The site is surrounded by devout silence. A large square with trees leading to the Church which dates back to the fifteenth century, in a single nave, suffused with mysticism and completely covered by exquisite frescoes. The Sanctuary, which began in 1460 (the year in which the Carmelite friars of the Mantuan Congregation were asked to give their service) just outside the village. This was where a chapel dedicated to "S. Maria delle Grazie" had already existed since 1452 and was solemnly consecrated on 17 January 1482 by the Carmelite Bishop Giorgio Vink, suffragan of Trento. It did not originate from a few appearances, but from the filial faith of so many believers in the One who is the Mother of the Redeemer: Mary, the Mediator of all graces. Tradition has it that it was the local fishermen expressing their gratitude to the Virgin Mary for having saved them so many times from the sudden and terrible storms that swept across the lake. One thing however is certain: the times were full of disasters and the plague was claiming many victims. Here people flocked to say their prayer, supplication and give thanks for favours received, to the Virgin Mary. This is evidenced by the many frescoes (ex voto) commissioned by the faithful for the favours received from heaven. On 2 August 1770 a drastic decree of dissolution of the monastery by the Republic of Venice swept away all the work done by the monks over many years of presence. In 1952, after a forced absence of 182 years the Religious Carmelites returned to the Sanctuary of San Felice del Benaco. They soon set about restoring the sanctuary to its former glory, which, besides being abandoned for too long, had also been completely pillaged. Since 1994 it has become the Marian Centre of the Carmelite Apostolate whose purpose is to facilitate the irradiation of Carmel in northern Italy.