The Shrine of the Volto Santo at Capodimonte

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Local sanctuaries and regional pilgrimages abound in Italy. At the origin of most of them is a miraculous event or special grace. The foundational event is kept alive in the collective memory of the people by means of yearly festivals, processions, and other celebrations. Given that this blog is dedicated to the Vultus Christi, the Holy Face of Christ, I want to recall today the anniversary of just such an event and the shrine that grew out it.

Flora Romano De Santis (1899–1969) and her husband Ernesto De Santis, a devout couple living at Capodimonte in Naples, subscribed to a number of Catholic periodicals. On the cover of an issue of Crociata Missionnaria (Missionary Crusade), Flora noticed a beautiful image of the Face of Christ, a reproduction of a painting by the artist Rina Maluta. It was nothing more than a magazine cover, but Flora and her husband were strangely moved by the divine beauty of the Face. Flora cut out the image, framed it, and gave it a place of honour in her bedroom. This is not the first time that a common, printed reproduction of a popular image has become a means of grace. It pleases God to make use of things that are humble and quotidian.

On February 10, 1932, Flora was praying the rosary in front of the image of the Face of Christ. The day was cold and grey. Flora had just finished cooking and serving dinner for the poor and abandoned old people of her neighbourhood.

All of a sudden the room was filled with an immense light shining from the framed picture of the Holy Face. As Flora gazed at the image, it came to life before her eyes. Our Lord, looking at Flora, said, "Flora, behold this Face so offended and insulted; love it and make it loved."

From that moment forward, Flora dedicated herself to obeying these words of Christ. For thirty–five years she devoted herself to loving the Holy Face of Christ and making it loved, all the while seeing that same adorable Face in the faces of the poor, especially of orphans and of the elderly.

Signora De Santis became Madre Flora to countless people who knocked at her door wanting to pray before the miraculous image. Madre Flora was graced with all sorts of charisms: locutions, prophesies, visions, and especially, the gifts of wisdom and of counsel. She was given the secret of opening hearts to prayer, and of leading people to the contemplation of the Face of Christ and to the sacraments.

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The De Santis home became a shrine of the Volto Santo, the Holy Face of Christ. Padre Giacinto Ruggieri, a Friar Minor of the Province of Naples, was Madre Flora's spiritual director and her representative to the authorities of the Church. In 1965, His Eminence Cardinal Alfonso Cataldo, Archbishop of Naples, authorized the daily celebration of Holy Mass in "the house of the Holy Face."

Madre Flora died on May 31, 1969. For ten days, crowds of people mourned her passing and venerated her remains. By popular decision, later legitimized by the competent civil and ecclesiastical authorities, Madre Flora was interred in the little chapel of her own home.

On February 25, 1990, His Eminence Cardinal Michele Giordano blessed the first stone of a spacious new sanctuary of the Holy Face, and on March 10, 1996 the same prelate celebrated the opening of the church to the faithful. Pilgrims from Campania and from every part of Italy continue to bear witness to the flood of graces obtain through confident prayer before the Holy Face of Jesus and the intercession of Madre Flora.


4 Comments

Father, Thank you so much for this post. I never knew this story.

Does anyone know the name of the artist or illustrator who created the image on the cover of the magazine?

Hi, Anonymous, Do you mean this?: "Flora noticed a beautiful image of the Face of Christ, a reproduction of a painting by the artist Rina Maluta." (It's mentioned on the post). +PAX

The information given is useful to us, because we are using the stickers of the Holy Face of Jesus on our car and very thankful for the divine beauty of the picture. I hope to get some stickers to me for my friends.


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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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