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The Miracle of Syracuse: the history of the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears

The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears, located in Syracuse, is a place of Marian devotion known for its intriguing history, impressive modern architecture, and the Museum of Lacrimation, which preserves documents and objects related to a miraculous event.

The shrine was erected to commemorate the miraculous tearing of an effigy of Our Lady in 1953 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Iannuso in Syracuse. Over the years, the basilica has become an important center of pilgrimage and a witness to the community's faith.

Facciata della Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime
The Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime


The history of the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears is steeped in miracles and devotion. The miraculous event that gave rise to this shrine occurred from August 29 to September 1, 1953, when a plaster effigy depicting the Immaculate Heart of Mary wept at the bedside of Mr. and Mrs. Iannuso. This extraordinary phenomenon was witnessed by a large crowd, and the tears themselves were subjected to a scientific analysis that confirmed their composition similar to human tear fluid.

Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini, archbishop of Palermo, blessed and laid the foundation stone of the shrine on May 9, 1954, beginning its construction. The shrine was elevated to the dignity of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 2002, and in 2019, the Sicilian Bishops' Conference declared it a regional shrine.

La statua della Madonna in bronzo dorato
The gilded bronze statue of Our Lady


The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears has often been called a modern masterpiece, capable of attracting the attention of visitors and architecture enthusiasts from all over the world.

The shrine consists of two main parts: the basilica, or upper temple, and the crypt, or lower temple. The structure is characterized by a conical body supported by reinforced concrete ribs that span a total height of 103 meters. This impressive edifice is topped by a steel crowning that houses a gilded bronze statue of Our Lady by artist Francesco Caldarella, surrounded by a decorative halo.

The basilica is 71.40 meters in diameter and can accommodate up to 11,000 people standing and 6,000 seated. Inside the basilica, in addition to the central altar that holds the miraculous effigy, there are also several chapels, including the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, dedicated to St. Joseph, St. Lucy and other saints venerated in Catholic tradition.

Scorcio della Basilica Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime
The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears

The Museum of Lacrimation

The Museum of Lacrimation is a place of great significance at the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears. This museum preserves documents, photographs and newspaper articles recounting the event of the miraculous tearing of Our Lady in Syracuse. Exhibits include some of the rags used to clean the tear effigy, test tubes and instruments used to analyze the chemical composition of the tears, which turned out to be very similar to that of human tears.

The Museum also features a wooden desk on which the authenticity of the tears shed by Our Lady was attested, the pontifical ring of Monsignor Ettore Baranzini, who was Archbishop of Syracuse during the period of the spread of the cult to the "Our Lady of Tears," and other objects related to this extraordinary story of faith and miracles.

How to get to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears

For Hotel Algilà guests who wish to explore the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Tears, there are several options starting from the heart of Ortigia. It can be reached by taxi or by car in about a 7-minute drive. A scenic alternative for the more athletic, is to take a leisurely walk, lasting about 30 minutes. If you prefer to use public transportation or would like more information about the visit, the hotel staff will be happy to provide assistance and detailed directions to the church.


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