Vena Sanctuary

I planned this route when I had to decide where to ride for my Sunday tour: I thought of a trail (very nice, in my opinion) rarely frequented by cyclists. The usual meeting point is on the SS114, in Acireale. I lead the group along the waterfront until we meet the exit for Riposto. Then, turning towards Mascali, we take the slope leading first to Nunziata and then to Piedimonte Etneo. But, instead of going ahead to Linguaglossa, as usual, we turn left, riding uphill to the shrine dedicated to Most Holy Mary of the Vein, in Piedimonte Etneo.

 

 

According to the tradition, this shrine, Maria Santissima della Vena, was built in the area where the Pope Gregory the Great had erected the Monastery of St. Andrew super Mascalas.

Inside the sanctuary is a sacred Byzantine icon depicting the Virgin with the Child which, the legend says, dates back to the VI-VII century (but the XVI-century historian Filoteo degli Omodei states it was made by St. Luke).  A vein of water with miraculous properties (hence the name of the shrine) is also venerated in the sanctuary.

 

The legend tells that some Basilian monks were hiking on Mt. Etna to hide and escape persecution. They were bringing with them an icon of the Virgin, painted on a cedar plank.  The mule which was carrying the icon suddenly stopped, and started scratching the soil with its hoof: at once, a vein of water sprung forth. The monks considered it as a divine sign, and decided to settle in the place indicated by the mule. There, with Pope Gregory’s permission, a Gregorian Monastery was founded, spreading wide the cult of Our Lady of the Vein (according to what Theophanes Kerameus, Basilian monk and man of great culture, probably a native of Vena, tells us).

The history of Vena, thus, has ancient origins: the actual church stands on the ruins of the old Basilian Monastery, builted probably in 597 A.D. and shattered as the centuries went by. The story is described by many fine mosaics adorning the sanctuary. The inside of the little church is definitely XX-century style, in fact it was last refurbished in 1930.

The miraculous vein springs right next to the church