The history of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love dates back to the XIII century when in this area of the Roman Campagna there stood a kind of fortress belonging to the Savelli-Orsini family. This fortress was called Castel di Leva (Leva Castle). On one of the towers of the castle there was a votive image of the Virgin Mary, portrayed as sitting on a Throne and holding the child Jesus in her arms. A dove descends upon her as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who is indeed the Divine Love. The image, which was frescoed in those same times, was much venerated by the local shepherds.The First Miracle
In the spring of 1740 a wayfarer on his way to Rome, while approaching the tower, was attacked by a pack of dogs and was on the point of being slaughtered. The wretched man saw the holy image and cried out for help to the Mother of God. Immediately the dogs calmed down and fled into the countryside.
On account of this prodigy, on 5 September of the same year the image of Mary was removed from the tower and transferred to a nearby estate called "La Falconiana", where a small church dedicated to St Mary ad Magos stood. Five years later, on 1-9 April 1745, the image was brought back to its ancient seat, where meanwhile a church had been erected which before long was consecrated in 1750 by Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico; who later became Pope with the name of Clement XIII. Starting from that time folk pilgrimages began, became more and more numerous and are still continuing today. Among the best known are those that take place every Saturday night between Easter and the end of October, on foot, with starting-point at the Passeggiata Archeologica, covering a distance of about 15 kilometres.
On 13 May, 1883,the Vatican Chapter puts a crown on the image of Our Lady.
In 1930, Don Umberto Terenzi is appointed Rector of the Sanctuary.
On 8 December, 1932, the Sanctuary becomes a parish church and Don Umberto becomes its first parish priest.
On 25 March, 1942, Don Umberto founds the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Divine Love, and twenty years later he founded the Oblate Priests, who since then have been taking care of the Sanctuary.
In 1944, on 24 January, Rome is in serious danger of being destroyed because of the appalling events of the second world war. The Image of the Holy Virgin is moved into the city and brought in pilgrimage to various churches. In the last of these churches, that of St. Ignatius, on 4 June 1944 the Roman people, to obtain the liberation of the city, make a vow to our Lady to renew their lives, to erect a new Sanctuary, and to carry out charitable work in her honour. The Virgin Mary obtains the miracle, and Rome is saved.
On 11 June, 1944, Pope Pius XII goes to the Sanctuary to pray in communion with the Roman faithful, and confers the title of "Saver of the City" on our Lady of Divine Love.
"We look at you, Mother of Divine Love, and we wait from you, from your maternal Intercession, our salvation... Guard and preserve Rome." (Pius XII, 11 June 1944).
After the war, the Sanctuary reopens its doors, and works of charity, culture and apostolate develop. The issue of the magazine "Parrocchia" begins in 1946, followed by "La Madonna" in 1954; the bulletin "La Madonna del Divino Amore", whose publication had started in 1931 and was stopped during the war, resumes its publication.
The first orphan girls are received with open arms into the Sisters' house, while other religious houses gradually spread to various parts of Italy and abroad, with missions in Colombia in 1971, in Brasil in 1991, and in Peru in 1993. On 3 January, 1974, Don Umberto Terenzi dies.
His mortal remains rest at the Sanctuary, in the crypt of Our Lady of Sorrows.
In 1975, the National Marian Youth Summer Camp is held for the first time in the area of the Sanctuary.
On 1 May, 1979, Pope John Paul II visits the Shrine and names it "the Marian Sanctuary of Rome". He comes again on 7 June, 1987, on the occasion of the opening of the Marian Year.
In 1983 "La Casa del Pellegrino" (The Pilgrim's House) is inaugurated, and since then it has been available for Meetings, Retreats, and Spiritual Exercises.
Since 1983 - on Palm Sunday and on Good Fridays, at 8,30 p.m. - the most spectacular Roman mystery play of the Via Crucis has been taking place at the Sanctuary.
In the 1980's, many repair works of the Sanctuary were carried out, and in 1991 the delicate restoration of the altar and of the precious fresco of Our Lady of Divine Love was accomplished.
On 29 February, 1991. Cardinal Vicar Camillo Ruini's edict for the canonization of the Servant of God Don Umberto Terenzi, founder of the Congregation of Our Lady of Divine Love, was published.
The Diocesan Synod, opened in 1986 and closed in 1993 at the presence of an effigy of Our Lady of Divine Love brought to St Peter's Square, constitutes the most authoritative event of the Church of Rome to accomplish the vow, through spiritual revival and growth in communion with the Church and its mission in the City and in the world.
On 19 February, 1991, the building contract for the construction of the new Sanctuary was signed. The project of the new Shrine foresees a green meadow covering the roof, a sheet of water on its consecrated ground and immense stained glass windows for walls, which will confer a mystical light to the whole structure. The new Sanctuary is under construction at the foot of the hill, outside the ancient walls, and it will neither break the magic spell of the Roman Campagna, nor the remarkable atmosphere of the monumental complex of the XV11 century.Night Pilgrimage on Foot
Every Saturday night, from Easter until the end of October, a night Pilgrimage on foot takes place. It sets out at midnight from Piazza di Porta Capena, Rome, and reaches the Sanctuary at 5 o'clock on Sunday morning. A similar night Pilgrimage is carried out on 7 December, on the eve of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The night pilgrims walk along the famous Via Appia Antica (oldAppian way) until they reach the church called Quo Vadis, then they turn on to the Via Ardeatina and continue their way, walking over the Catacombs of St. Callisto and past the Mausoleum of the Ardeatin Caves (Fosse Ardeatine). They bring their personal intentions to the feet of the Virgin, along with the necessities, the hopes and the mission of the Church of Rome and of the Eternal City.
O beautiful Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, O Lady of Divine Love, we turn to you in confidence that you will obtain for us the grace we sorely in need. We know that you will never turn us away, you who have been worthily greeted by an angel with the words "Hail, full of grace!"
Yes, O Mother, You are truly full grace, for your heavenly spouse, the Holy Spirit, with his Divine Love, has designed to come upon you the moment you took form in your mother's womb, thus preserving you from the stain of sin and keeping you ever immaculate; again he came down upon you at the time of the annunciation, rendering you the mother of Jesus, at the same time keeping you ever virgin. He came down upon you at Pentecost, filling you with his seven gifts, and making you the fount and dispenser of all heavenly blessings.
Therefore, O gracious Mother of Divine Love, listen to our prayers. THANK YOU DEAR MOTHER!
Grant peace and prosperity to (Italy and to) the whole world, protect our Holy Father, bring into perfect unity all Christians according to the desire of your divine Son, illumine with the light of the Gospel all who have not yet come to the true faith; convert poor sinners; give us too a sincere contrition for our sins; render us always strong enough to say "no" when temptations assail us; lead us along the path of fraternal love and charity; and, finally, when God would beckon us, open to us the portals of heaven. You who see us mourning and weeping in this vale of tears, come to our aid when we are weighed down by the load of our miseries; give us strength to accept the inevitable difficulties and trials of life; grant, O Mother of Grace, health in mind and body to all who turn to you.
Comfort, O Virgin Mary, and free all the holy souls from purgatory, especially the souls entrusted to the suffrages of your holy shrine and the victims of all human conflicts.
Cast your maternal gaze on the Shrine of Divine Love, keep it ever in your sweet protection; grant that we, your beloved children, will always render you praise with our lives; keep ever burning in us the flame of Divine Love so that we will let ourselves be entirely consumed by it here in this life and for ever in heaven. Amen.