The exterior of the church of Maria SS. delle Vergini, in Macerata, with its dome, Doric pillars and ancient Greek temple-like facade gives no clue as to one of the most strange exhibits I've seen in a church. My initial view of the church's interior was of the wide apse leading to the altar which sits under the dome.
Beautiful sculptures and paintings adorn the main altar and those of the shrines that line the walls of the church.
It was by the Chapel of the Madonna that I noticed an object suspended from the ceiling, which on closer inspection turned out to be a crocodile.
One theory is that the crocodile was brought back from the East by the Crusaders. Another theory, tells of a miraculous event that took place around 1590.
"A crocodile appeared on the banks of the river in the neighbourhood of Chienti slaughtering animals and terrorizing the inhabitants. Hunters took aim and hit the creature but always in vain, for the scales were too thick. Not content to grab animals, one day the crocodile kidnapped a small child of a farmer, who when hearing his son's screams, ran with a pitchfork in his hand. The crocodile then left the child, and turned to assault the man, but the latter, with great faith and by invoking the help of Saint Maria of the Virgins, stuck the fork in its stomach and killed it. The farmer gutted it and filled it with straw, and brought it as a gift to the church, for the deliverance of his child."
A church in honour of Saint Mary has stood on the site in Macerata since 1355, but it was in 1533 that the Chapel to the Virgin was adorned with the painting that now stands there. Macerata has reported several sightings of the Virgin Mary and in 1548, the Virgin Mary appeared to a girl named Bernadina and asked for a procession of virgins to enter the city on Saturday, in reparation for the many scandals that were being committed there.
The church is a Carmelite sanctuary and temple and the brown habit-wearing brothers lead mass and provide a friendly welcome. If you are in Macerata, this church is worth the short trip from the centre of the town.
|A rather miserable looking pig is another animalistic|
contribution to the church's decor.
Perhaps the pig is the embodiment of the exclamation, 'Porca miseria!'