Visit to the Madonna Porto Salvo Santuary

Another important moment of the forst event of the project Lampedusa Berlin has been the visit to the Madonna Porto Salvo Santuary, an important place for Lampedusa and its inhabitants. According to what the tradition says, it was founded in 1200 and it has always represented a place for Islam and Christianity to meet and cohabit peacefully.

The first to write about it is the historian and writer Fazello who, in 1568, notes the presence of a “chapel sacred to Mary in a cave”. Twenty-eight years later, in 1596, the chronicler Lorenzo d’Anania confirms that “a lamp perpetually burns in front of Our Lady and it never lacks for oil, brought by sailors both Christians and Muslim”. Later, in 1623, Felice Astolfi specifies that “there is in Lampedusa a chapel with an image of the Holy Virgin inside”, and in 1655 the traveler Pagnozzi adds “worthy of great veneration is the Holy Mother in Lampedusa, worshiped by the Turks themselves”. Even the Spanish pirate Contrares confirms the existence of the cave hosting the image of the Virgin and describes its shape, finishing his tale with “Christian and Turks leave there food for shipwrecks and escaped slaves, but no one has to take more than what’s necessary. If they did, it would be impossible for those people to leave the port”.

From these various witnesses, we can deduce that it has always been a place intentionally devoted to religions’ unity, or at least of the two historical antagonists, Islam and Christianity, which comes to a full realization in the small, lost island of Lampedusa, at the feet of a statue of Jesus’s mother.

Concerning this “double use”, Christian and Muslim, the legend says that in that small church lived a hermit who also happened to be a very good diplomat. When the Muslims (the Turks) visited the small church, the hermit hung a flag with a half-moon; when Christians did, he raised a cross. In this way, he obtained protection and help from both parties without compromising himself.

Near the Santuary people can visit some caves, large and all connected, which are the same where survivors of shipwrecks and fugitive slaves would seek refuge, and which were later used by the first people to live steadily in Lampedusa.

Near one of the caves, and still working, there’s a tank collecting the rainwater that flows into it from the natural canals above. A double basin sculpted in stone was used to (and is still used to) pour the water, collected with buckets and then channeled towards a stone funnel under which people would put their recipients in order to not lose a single drop, or so that it would not wet the feet of anyone who drew that water regardless of any religious motivation.

In conclusion, has been very interesting to visit this sanctuary because it’s one of the few archeological sites in the island, and it belongs to the legend-history of Lampedusa.