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Who is Our Lady of Divine Love, linked to World War II?


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Larry Peterson - published on 06/05/24

The devotion began in the early 18th century. In the 1940s, Pope Pius XIII led the faithful to her to beseech the protection of Rome and to thank her for her protection.

The devotion to Our Lady of Divine Love came about in the early 18th century. The story is about a wanderer heading to the Basilica of St. Peter’s. He heard fierce barking getting closer and closer. Turning to see a pack of wild dogs bearing down on him, the man began looking around for an escape route. He saw the icon of the Madonna and Child on a tower of the gatehouse of Castel di Leva and began calling out to Our Lady and the Child for deliverance from the wild beasts. 

The Blessed Mother interceded on his behalf. The dogs stopped and ran off into the woods. A group of shepherds had been hurrying to the man, and they brought him to safety in Rome. 

Word spread of the incident, and the following September, the painting was moved to La Falconiana, where a small church called St. Mary of the Magi (Santa Maria ad Magos) became the temporary home of the fresco.

On Easter Monday, April 19, 1745, the icon of the Madonna and Child came back to its original home. Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico (later elected Pope Clement XIII) consecrated the church as Our Lady of Divine Love, and the fresco was placed over the main altar, which was very close to the tower where it had been during the miracle. The church became a site for pilgrimages from all over Europe. They held night processions every Saturday during the summer, a tradition carried on to this day.

In 1870 the Papal State fell, and authorities seized church property. The property fell into decay from neglect, but the people kept coming. The devotion for Our Lady of Divine Love never diminished. The image received a canonical coronation on May 13, 1883. 

Pius XII’s devotion

The fresco was moved during World War II to the church of St. Ignatius, and Pope Pius XII and many pilgrims visited the Shrine to pray for Our Lady’s intercession, asking that Rome would be spared.

A few days after the Allied entry into the city, on June 11, Pius XII gave the image the title Salvatrice dell’Urbe, meaning “She who saves the city.”

In 1962, the Oblate Priests were founded, and they still serve the Shrine. A new church, finished in 1999, was tied in with the old church and was dedicated by Pope St. John Paul II on July 4 of that year. The chapel accommodates up to 1,500 people, and behind it is a staircase that leads down to the gate tower where the miracle occurred in 1740. 


Pope Francis visited the Shrine on May 1, 2018, to pray the Rosary.

The miraculous fresco is enshrined above the altar. In the crypt below are the remains of the first married couple ever beatified together, Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrochi and Blessed Maria Corsini Quattrocchi. Luigi died in 1951 and Maria in 1965. Pope John Paul II beatified them on October 21, 2001. Their feast day is November 25, their wedding anniversary.

See images of the shrine in this video (audio in Spanish): Salvadora de la Urbe.

And learn more about it with this link:

Pius XII’s prayer:

To you, O Mary, are known all the needs
of your people and of the whole Church.
Mother of Truth and Seat of Wisdom,
dissipate the clouds of error which darken our minds.

Amend the strayings of our hearts and inspire in us
love for truth and the desire to do good.
Obtain for all people a holy fear of God
so that society may know happiness.
Give us lively faith that we may trust in
those things which are imperishable.
Give us that love which is sealed forever in God.

Obtain for families fidelity, harmony, and peace.
Stir up and confirm in the hearts of those who govern nations
a clear notion of their responsibility,
and of their duty to foster religion, morality, and the common good.
And just as your mercy is showered upon souls, O Mary,
may it likewise flow over all those ills which afflict this people,
and indeed the whole Christian family.

Have pity on the poor, on captives, on all who bear persecution
for the sake of justice, or are stricken by misfortune.
Hail, O Mary, Mother of those who wander here below;
you are our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

O Mother of Divine Love, send down your motherly blessing
on all who pray to you; send it abundantly and consolingly.

ItalyPius XIIPope FrancisVirgin MaryWorld War II
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