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A Madonnina near Cannara

[image ALT: By the side of a one-lane road, barely seen framing the photo to our left, and slightly shaded by a small tree, a stuccoed brick building, the size of a very small pantry, about two and a half meters high and roofed with a symmetrical tile roof, the sides sloping at about 10 degrees. Behind it a flat field, fallow for the moment. The stucco is spalling here and there. It is completely open on one side, and thus forms a sort of wide door, only partly blocked by an elegant stone balustrade about 45 cm high, with two colonnettes on either side, and the space between the sides allowing access to the interior of the hut, in which an altar is ranged against the back wall, spread with a fresh cotton or linen cloth. In the wall above the altar table is a painting of the Virgin and Child. It is an 18c roadside shrine, or madonnina, a few hundred meters from Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]

About one kilometer SW of Cannara on the road to Bevagna, you come to this little building or edicola: a wayside shrine to the Virgin Mary, one of thousands that dot the Italian countryside. The balustrade is particularly charming, and somewhat unusual.

[image ALT: a painting of the Virgin and Child. It is an 18c roadside shrine, or madonnina, a few hundred meters from Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]

To judge from the balustrade and the ornate baroque frame seen here, and bearing in mind that rural areas usually stay conservatively behind the fashions by a couple of decades at least, this madonnina — 'little Madonna' as such shrines are often called, or even, affectionately, this madonnuccia — must date to the late 18c, maybe even the 19c. The inscription restavrata anno 1976 is witness to the same loving care as the fresh flowers, with which these small shrines are nearly always provided.

This little building on its corner of farmland may have been built for any number of reasons, and then again maybe for none other than piety and devotion to the Virgin and her Child. Here though, we're about halfway between the chapel of S. Giovanni Decollato and Cannara's cemetery, both on the same road, a few hundred meters to either side; I have no evidence, and perhaps no one else has any either, but I'm tempted to see a connection. It is, at any rate, as good a place as any to pause and reflect.

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Page updated: 18 Feb 13