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Fount of love, forever flowing, 
With a burning ardor glowing, 
Make me, Mother, feel like thee; 
Let my heart, with graces gifted, 
All on fire, to Christ be lifted, 
And by Him accepted be.


- D. F. MacCarthy

Nestling cozily on the northern slope of the Alban Mountains, about fifteen miles from Rome, lies the quaint little town of Frascati. A favorite summer resort of such residents of the Eternal City as are able to escape the sweltering heat of the Roman dog-days, it possesses other than climatic advantages for the tourist who, during the months of July and August, finds himself sojourning beneath Italian skies. Environing the town are the magnificent villas of princes and cardinals who for centuries have established here their country residences; while two miles farther up the mountain slope are the ruins of old Tusculum - the crumbling remains of the Amphitheatre, the Forum, the villa of Cicero - with countless other relics of the patricians, orators, and poets of Imperial Rome. 

Guide-book in hand, the average tourist saunters about these classic scenes; admires the splendid panorama spread before him; notes the wide spreading vineyards, whence issue the Albanian wines praised by Horace ; visits the Villa Piccolomini, once the residence of the learned Cardinal Baronius ; the more handsome Villa Aldobrandini ; and the Villa Tusculana, owned successively by Lucien Bonaparte, Victor Emmanuel, and Prince Lancelotti ; reads the memorial tablet to the left of the high altar in the Cathedral S. Pietro, the tablet that records the death at Frascati, in 1788, of the young Pretender, Charles Edward, grandson of James II. ; takes a hasty glance at the interior of the older Cathedral of S. Rocco, dating from 1309; and, proud in the consciousness that he has virtuously followed the counsels of Baedeker, and consequently seen all that is worth seeing in Frascati, lies him off to Marino, Castel-Gandolfo, Albano, or some other neighboring town of equal beauty and celebrity. 


Should the tourist, however, chance to be a client of Our Lady, and one who experiences genuine delight in discovering, thick-spread over all Italy, striking proofs that it is veritably and indeed "the Virgin Mary’s land," he will probably seek his information from other sources than Baedeker and his kin, and will find in Frascati notable sights of which the statistically prosaic guide-books make no mention. He will, indeed, require no other informant than his personal observation to be made aware that the citizens of this little Albanian mountain town are peculiarly devoted to the Mother of God; while his query whether there exists any extraordinary reason therefor elicits the fact that Frascati has been privileged beyond most cities of old Latium in the enjoyment of the Blessed Virgin’s special patronage. The story of this protection, strikingly manifested on more than one occasion, is intimately connected with a painting in fresco religiously preserved above the high altar in the beautiful church of the Theatine Fathers, the first notable structure that attracts the attention of the visitor who enters Frascati by the highway from Rome. 

Dedicated, it is needless to say, to the Mother of God, the church bears deeply engraved on its facade the singularly appropriate motto: Tu nos ab hoste protege, - "Do thou defend us from the enemy." Within, vault and walls are decorated with pictorial representations of the different prodigies, of unquestionable authenticity, wrought during the past three or four centuries through the instrumentality of Frascati’s greatest treasure, the miraculous picture of Our Lady of Capocroce. 

The early history of the picture is unknown, as is the name of its painter.  In 1527, the date when first it attained celebrity, the fresco figured on a wall surrounding a vineyard situated a short distance below the location of the present church.  As long as the oldest citizens could remember, the painting had been on the wall; they had often paused before it to murmur a "Hail Mary" or utter an ejaculatory prayer; but their knowledge of its history went no further, nor indeed had there hitherto been any special reason for inquiring more minutely as to its origin. 

One of the results of the struggle between the Emperor Charles V. and the French monarch, Francis I., in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, was the pillage of Rome by the licentious and infuriated troops of the Constable Bourbon.  His army, which was composed chiefly of Lutheran soldiers from Germany, ravaged the Eternal City during two months with a destructive fury unequaled by that of either the Goths or the Vandals of an earlier period. 

Glutted with the vengeance wreaked upon Rome, the German adventurers turned their arms upon the environing towns.  Already a number of these had fallen victims to carnage and ruin, when on Sunday, May I, 1527, the menacing hordes betook themselves to Frascati. Their approach was visible afar off to the inhabitants of the mountain town; and, although ultimate security from the conquering soldiers was scarcely anticipated, both civil and religious authorities at once took such measures as were deemed most opportune. The former disposed their inconsiderable forces so as to offer a desperate, if ineffectual resistance to the pillagers; the latter, accompanied by the women and children, repaired to the churches and sought the aid of Heaven. Terrified mothers clasped their little ones to their bosoms, and poured out their hearts in passionate entreaty to that Heavenly Mother who on occasion can be "terrible as an army in battle-array." 

In the meantime the enemy had almost reached the entrance of the town. Already their fierce yells of anticipated triumph resounded along the mountain side, and Frascati’s annihilation was apparently at hand.  Suddenly the onward march of the adventurers was checked.  Just as their leading files reached the wall whereon was depicted the Virgin and Child, the lips of the painted Virgin opened and, issuing therefrom came a voice of irresistible power and majesty.  Dominating the shouts of the advancing multitude as a thunderclap dominates the pattering of raindrops or the whistling of the tempest, was heard the command of Our Lady of Capocroce: "Back, soldiers! This land is mine!" 

The effect was instantaneous. Not a soldier dreamt of disobeying the imperious mandate.  Turning about, they rushed from Frascati toward Rome with an ardor far greater than had marked their recent advance.  The terror to which the citizens had shortly before been a prey seemed to have fallen upon their dreaded enemy; and with frightened shrieks of "Back! Back!" the troops fled in utter confusion and rout from the privileged town which Mary had called her own. 

Not on this occasion alone did Our Lady of Capocroce prove the truth of her words, "This land is mine." Frequently during the intervening centuries has she manifested her special regard for Frascati. To her alone do the citizens attribute their singular preservation from the earthquakes which from time to time have carried consternation and death to the neighboring districts. To her peculiar tenderness for this home of her miraculous image do they owe, they will assure you, their immunity from that terrible scourge, the cholera, which, despite the purity of the mountain air, has often devastated towns in their immediate vicinity. Only twenty-seven years ago Albano, distant four or five miles from Frascati, lay prostrate under this disease.  Victims fell daily in increasing numbers, not in Albano alone, but throughout its environs.  Like a monstrous dragon the epidemic raged on all sides of the town save one. Frascati was absolutely untouched. The land is Mary’s, and the dread ministers of divine vengeance cease their havoc at Our Lady of Capocroce’s Shrine. 

It will readily be believed that, after the prodigy of 1527, extraordinary veneration was accorded the miraculous image. A chapel was constructed at the entrance of the town, the picture was placed therein, and this little sanctuary soon became the favorite resort of all who had petitions to offer to the August Mother of God.  Of the incalculable number of spiritual and temporal favors won by the citizens of Frascati through the devotion manifested in that hallowed spot, no earthly record has been kept; but tradition testifies to the unfailing efficacy of prayers uttered before the miraculous picture, and a cult that has endured through three centuries and upward must needs have been fostered by signal graces thereby received. 

The first chapel in which the picture was enshrined was a modest structure, which, as the years sped by, grew too small to accommodate the increasing numbers of Mary s clients; and, in 1611 a second striking miracle led to the building of the present ampler and more beautiful church.  In that year a pious and wealthy Roman priest, Jerome de Rossi-Cavoletti, was one morning celebrating Mass at the altar of the miraculous picture.  Just after the Consecration the Sacred Host left his hands and disappeared.  He looked for It with scrupulous care, questioned the server; but all in vain: he could not find It.  Trembling with apprehension, he examined his conscience; and as it did not accuse him of either guilt or irreverence, he turned his tear-filled eyes on Our Lady’s picture, and besought his tender Mother to relieve his distress. As he gazed he heard an interior voice saying: "Jerome; you are rich in the goods of this world. Look at this humble chapel.  Is it worthy of the Queen of Heaven?  “He understood at once, and forthwith vowed to replace the little structure with a large and beautiful church in honor of Mary. Hardly had he formulated his vow when the Sacred Host, vainly sought for a few moments before, reappeared upon the altar.  De Rossi accomplished his vow by causing the present spacious church to be built, and he added a large dwelling-house for the clergy who should be charged with the care of Our Lady’s Shrine. The new church was consecrated in 1613. 

Just a century later, in the year 1713, occurred another public prodigy attesting the Blessed Virgin’s special predilection for her children of Frascati.  A large number of people were one day assembled in the church, kneeling before the miraculous picture, some imploring Mary to grant them additional graces, others returning grateful thanks for favors and boons already procured.  Suddenly the religious silence reigning in the church was broken by a cry of warning issuing from the venerated picture. "Fly! Fly!" was the order; and, in obedience thereto, the crowd rushed at once to the doors.  Scarcely had the last of the number crossed the threshold when the whole roof fell in, the vault, plaster, woodwork, rafters, all crashing down to the pavement.  The timely warning had assuredly preserved all Our Lady’s clients from serious injury, and many of them from instant death. 

On October 28th of that year (1713), Frascati beheld a signal honor paid to its venerated image.  The Chapter of St. Peter, of the Vatican, on that day visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Capocroce and, amid the enthusiastic rejoicing of the people, fixed above the miraculous picture a magnificent golden crown. In 1863 this same Chapter of St. Peter gave additional evidence of their devotion to the Virgin of Capocroce by placing above the picture two angels in gilded copper, holding over the head of Our Lady a still larger and more splendid crown. 


The last public prodigy recorded of this miraculous picture occurred in 1796. Italy as well as the rest of Europe was to see, at the end of the eighteenth century, evil days - sacrilegious violation of laws human and divine, a very delirium of impiety, occasioning abundant tears and working damage irreparable.  As if to assure her devoted children of her continued protection, and to fortify their souls against the trials to come, Our Lady of Capocroce once more gave astounding proof of the truly miraculous character of her venerated picture.  In the presence of immense throngs of spectators, the eyes of the painted Virgin were seen alternately to close and open, - closing it may have been to shut out the spectacle of the world’s iniquity, opening to beam in loving compassion on her faithful servants gathered around her Shrine. 


All this, and more, one learns in a visit to the church of the Theatine Fathers at Frascati; for on every side he beholds ex-votos attesting innumerable cures of the blind, the deaf, the afflicted of every description, cures wrought throughout the centuries by the benignant and powerful Lady of Capocroce.  Kneeling at the famous Shrine and gazing upon the marvel working picture above us, we feel that this is the sight best worth seeing in all the Tusculan district; and we wonder whether Longfellow had in mind Our Lady’s words, "Back, soldiers! This land is mine!" when he wrote: 

This is indeed the Virgin Mary’s land.

And then comes the consoling thought that, although we must soon bid adieu to Our Lady of Capocroce, never again, it may be, to view her miraculous picture, we may still enshrine in our heart an image of that Heavenly Mother as beneficent as this wonderful fresco before us.  Not less confident in Our Lady’s power and goodness than are these Frascati peasants, who kneel beside us, we shall treasure our heart-portrait of Mother and Son with lifelong fidelity and loving tenderness; hopeful that it, too, will warn us of peril and preserve us from danger, - hopeful above all that when, at the dread moment of death, Satan and his minions advance to their final assault, we may see them routed by our Mother’s command: "Back, demons! This soul is mine!" 


This is indeed the Blessed Mary’s land, 
Virgin and Mother of our dear Redeemer, 
All hearts are touched and softened at her name; 
Alike the bandit, with the blood-stained hand, 
The priest, the prince, the scholar and the peasant, 
The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer, 
Pay homage to her as one ever present, 
And even as children, who have much offended 
A too indulgent father, in great shame, 
Penitent, and yet, not daring unattended 
To go into his presence, at the gate 
Speak with their sister, and confiding wait 
Till she goes in before and intercedes: 
So men, repenting of their evil deeds, 
And yet, not venturing rashly to draw near 
With their requests an angry father s ear, 
Offer to her their prayers and their confession, 
And she for them in heaven makes intercession. 
And if our Faith had given us nothing more 
Than this Example of all Womanhood, 
So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good, 
So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure -
This were enough to prove it higher and truer 
Than all the creeds the world had known before.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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