The Shrine of Castelmonte is very ancient: the oldest in Friuli and one of the oldest in Christendom

We must go back about one thousand five hundred years ago to find the origins, which lie in the twilight of early Christianity.

A tenacious tradition made him go back to the fifth century, that is, the period immediately after the Council of Ephesus in 431, which was solemnly defined the Divine Motherhood of Mary. Until yesterday you could argue that such a tradition had no foundation, and was derived from a pious pride of Cividalesi, and not from a probable reality But in 1962, while digging to build the lower church below the shrine, were discovered two floors earthenware, dating back at least to the sixth century: undoubted proof that until d 'then on the Castelmonte summit there was "something."

What, at this height, and more than eight kilometers from Cividale?

Certainly the seat of a Roman garrison, a place of sighting and defense, in the period of the invasion, begun in these regions in the fifth century, with the Gothic of Alaric in 402 and with that of Attila the Hun 452, was continued in 568 with the Lombard Alboino and, shortly after, with the slave raids and infiltration, which from the seventh century to the ninth century were to go off just behind Castelmonte

 And midway between Cividale and the Sanctuary, rises the summit of Mount Guardia, whose name immediately brings to mind also a sentinel placed on the Natisone valleys. It was, therefore, in those years of terror that arose in Castelmonte an outpost to protect the city of Cividale del Friuli; and the guards on the eve of course joined in the 'imploring arms to the Virgin, while the barbarian hordes roamed the valleys and the plains It was then that the Friuli Cividale and began to see in Castelmonte safe and victorious fortress, bathed in overt signs of the Virgin's protection.

Our Lady of Castelmonte is then revealed, facing the peaks of the Julian Alps, which shield and comfort to the eastern limits of Friuli and 'Italy. Since the time of the Lombards and the Franks, that is, from 568 to the ninth century, devotees flocked to crowds up here, so much so that in the immediate vicinity of the shrine there was a "Malbergium" - corrupt now Moldiaria - ie a place of solemn conferences popular for the administration of justice. So very well it explains why the Castelmonte Madonna was then called "the Old Lady"; and why the Slavs arrived so far at that time, they called Castelmonte "Staragora" and means "Monte Antico", precisely because they found it already inhabited since ancient times.

Inhabited by whom?

It was not certain place suitable for private homes, in so much loneliness and above a barren rock. Who lived there, who reigned there, who called himself the crowds right up here, it could not be that the Madonna. 

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