The Porticato di San Luca, pilgrims’ defense
At one point, to build the hillside part of the Porticato di San Luca, in Bologna, the people formed a human chain – first the delivery boys from the jenny, then all the city’s men and women. They passed each other the materials that were needed to create the uphill section of what would become one of the longest roofed arcades in the world: 3.796 kilometers from the Bonaccorsi Arch (near Porta Saragozza) to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. The Sanctuary protects the city from atop the Colle della Guardia (300 meters above sea level), thanks to the venerated icon of the “Madonna with the Baby”, traditionally attributed to Saint Luke the Evangelist himself.
It was 1677, and the people of Bologna called upon each other. The idea of building a portico – to protect the pilgrims from the rain as they reached the Sanctuary – had been in the air for years.
Three years earlier, the part on level ground had been started. Now it was time for the hardest part of the journey: the one climbing up for over two kilometers, from the Meloncello Arch to the Colle della Guardia, disseminated with images of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which were hung from the tree branches by the pilgrims themselves. Along the pathway, fifteen chapels were built – one for each Mystery.
Construction did not end until many years later, in 1721.
There are 666 arches in the portico – the number that symbolizes the devil according to the Apocalypse of Sain John. However, Mary guarantees her protection. She is the true roof, defending the pilgrims from every attack of the Evil.