Madonna del Pilerio

The famous painting of the Madonna del Pilerio is currently preserved in the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Piazza del Duomo, 12), better known as Duomo of Cosenza.



The cathedral is located in the historical center of the city of Cosenza.
The exact origins of the Duomo are unknown; it was probably built during the first half of the 11th century. An earthquake destroyed the cathedral on the 9th of June 1184, and its rebuilding was completed by 1222 when the cathedral was consecrated by Emperor Frederick II.



The facade of the church

The cathedral presents a salient facade divided into three parts that incorporates the architectural structure of the internal plan. On the square that houses the Duomo there are three portals, one of which, the central one, is the largest one. Above them there are as many rosettes.


The plan of the cathedral is a Latin cross. It has three naves, divided by two rows of pillars.


The central nave of the cathedral


Along the left aisle, there are two baroque chapels dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. One of these is dedicated to the Madonna del Pilerio, and houses the miraculous Byzantine icon dating back to the 12th century.


The entrance of Madonna del Pilerio's chapel


Painting inside the chapel


The cult of the Madonna del Pilerio, as the patron saint of Cosenza, dates back to the end of the XVI century. It's said that in 1576, while the plague desolated different regions of Italy, and loomed like a threat on the others, a devotee in prayer in the face of the icon of the Madonna noticed a stain similar to the pestiferous bubo, present on the face of Image. After a few days the plague epidemic had almost disappeared. The phenomenon was noted by the people and by the ecclesiastical authorities. The spot was considered a prodigy and a revealing sign of the protection of the Madonna for the city of Cosenza, which she saved from the plague.
The value of the miraculous sign of the stain has meant that the painting became the object of particular devotion to the cosentini, to the point of being called the "divine" framework.
The news of the prodigious sign didn't take long to spread and, from neighboring countries, began a growing rush of devotees, so numerous that, in order to allow the influx of pilgrims, it was necessary to place the picture in the chapel, specially built, where still today is venerated . Nowadays, on the cheek is barely visible the sign that recalls the miracle of the plague.


The altar of the chapel

In the chapel of the Madonna del Pilerio, under the painting, there is an engraving on marble, referring to the prodigy of the plague of 1576 following which the Madonna was proclaimed Patron of Cosenza for having freed the city from the "terrible scourge". The incision bears the inscription:

“Haec nos quam colimus de peste redimit imago prodigium labes denota orta genis”
This image that we venerate has saved us from the plague the stain on the face shows the miracle




Foreground of the painting

The icon is characterized by the Child who is nourished by the Mother's breast and by the red veil that elegantly falls from the head of the Virgin.
In the icon the red is represented by the veil on the blue cloak that covers the head of the Virgin, Mother of God. The blue and brown colors of the Virgin's dress represent her humanity as a creature of God. They could represent that the salvation of mankind is a joint work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity. The halo around the head of the Virgin, made up of golden medallions, indicates that the 12 Apostles (the original 11 plus St. Matthias) crown her, crowning her with the Holy Spirit, with whom she waited in the Cenacle of Jerusalem for the effusion of the Holy Spirit the day of Pentecost.

1. La Madonna del Pilerio, Giacomo Tuoto, Legenda (Gennaio 2001).
2. Parole di Vita, Lorenzo Coscarella (Novembre 2014).


  • Photos and main text by Nicolò Malato moc.liamg|9976otalamolocin#| and Antonio Pucci moc.liamg|2oinotnaiccup#| (December 2018).
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