Curtatone: battles and graces received
As symbols of the Italian Risorgimento, Curtatone and Montanara have been immortalized in a number of patriotic lyrics. Some declared the two towns in the province of Mantua were “the Tuscan Thermopylae” because on May 29, 1848 they were the theater of one of the most important battles of the First Italian War of Independence (1848-1849), when 6,000 volunteers from all over Tuscany and Naples fought against 32,000 soldiers of the Austrian army.
The incredible village of Curtatone, where the Mincio River opens up into Lake Superior, has a beautiful sanctuary dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Graces, built in the 14th century to welcome an image of Mary that dates back to at least the 1200s. Legend has it that Francesco Gonzaga – a ‘condottiero’ from Mantua and ‘capitano del popolo’ (captain of the people) – had it built for the Virgin Mary in thanks for ending the plague that had been afflicting the local people.
The grace granted by the Madonna, and the many ex voto that followed, are not the only beauty behind the sanctuary. In the 16th century, an artist friar called Francesco of Acquanegra made eighty human-size, papier-mâché mannequins representing the people who survived great perils thanks to the virgin’s intercession.
Under the vaults of the beautiful church, you’ll find everything from works of Giulio Romano’s school to a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling by a string… and many, many more surprises.