The church of Santa Maria dell’Isola is one of Tropea’s icons: it towers on a promontory facing the Calabria town’s beach, hiding its ancient origin in the new look it acquired when its was extensively renovated after being damaged by a terrible earthquake in 1905.
Likely built between the 6th and the 9th century, at first it welcomed a community of Basilian monks. In the 11th century, it was passed on to the Benedictines, who still own it today, under the Abbey of Montecassino.
The origins of this diocesan Sanctuary (since 2002) are tied to a prodigious event that occurred during Byzantine Iconoclasm, when a wooden statue of the Madonna miraculously drifted to Tropea’s beaches from the Orient, as if to escape the destruction of sacred images that was carried out in Byzantium’s area between the 8th and 9th centuries.
Unfortunately, that wooden statue of Mary has vanished without leaving a trace. But the Sanctuary is still there, looking out to the same sea that gave it its millenary roots.