Il Santuario della SS. Pietà di Cannobio

As seen from the promenade

The Sanctuary of the Santissima Pietà was constructed to commemorate a dramatic event: The Miracle of the Holy Rib. What happened? In 1522, a painting of a Pietà (a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus) began to emit blood and tears. The next night, in the same Pietà, Jesus’ rib protruded from his wounded side. Soon thereafter, a devastating plague swept through the area that wiped out every village except Cannobio. Really.


To honor this miracle, Cardinal Charles Borromeo constructed this chapel over the original, smaller church in 1578. The painting and the bloodstained clothes from the witnesses are kept in a niche on the high altar. The rib is preserved in a reliquary in the Church of San Vittore, up the hill.

Sanctuary entrance

The interior’s stucco and marble is from the 17th century. Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Ascent to Calvary is displayed on the high altar. The pink granite façade with adornments was added in 1900.

Ornate ceiling

The anniversary of the miracle is celebrated every year on January 7th with the festival Luminer. The old quarter, the lakefront, and the boats in the harbor are illuminated with candles and lanterns. The Holy Rib is carried from the Parish Church of San Vittore to the Sanctuary in a solemn procession. Afterward, the residents partake of a traditional dinner of bean soup and beef sausages.

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