|Location:||Praia a Mare|
|Classification:||Karst cave. Cave Church|
|Address:||Parrocchia 'S. Maria della Grotta', Via Roma, Praia a Mare (CS), Tel: +39-0985-72061, Fax: +39-0985-777900.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Santuario della Madonna della Grotta (Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Cave) is located in a series of three caves in the steep limestone cliff above the village Praia a Mare. The Calabrian coast has a narrow coastal plain where the vilages were built, which is followed by a steep cliff. This cliff is riddled with caves, which were used as shelters since the stone age. This was revealed by excavations carried out by the Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana (Italian Institute of Human Palaeontology) at Università di Roma (Rome University) in 1960.
The use of the caves as a church started in the 7th century. There is a legend that friars fleeing the iconoclast in Constantinople moved to Calabria and brought the statue of the Madonna with them. This statue is the center of the cave curch and its namesake, it is the Madonna della Grotta (Madonna of the Cave). Modern scientsts believe it was created during the 14th century. Unfortunately the original Madonna sculpture was stolen in 1979 and today there is a replica created by the carver Tschager from Bolzano (Bozen) in Southern Tyrolia.
Most of the buildings of the sanctuary were erected during the second half of the 19th century. This includes the stone staircase into the cave, the entrance portal, the main altar and two side altars, and the home ofthe chaplain. In 1905 the Madonna and Child were crowned in a solemn celebration.