top of page




​VISIONARY(S: Fabiana Cecchino, a.k.a. Bibiana (35); Serafina Valentino (33)


FIRST APPARITION: March 22, 1888


​APPROVED:  February 2, 1872

FEAST DAY: January 13th


The message of Castelpetroso

Holy Mary, as Mother Co-redemptrix,

has regenerated us to the life of grace

at the price of unspeakable suffering.




  Meditating on the Sorrows, or Dolors, of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an ancient devotion that has its foundation in both the Old and the New Testaments, as well as in the parcel of Sacred Tradition passed on by the Apostles. For the early Christians, the memory of Our Lord’s bitter Passion and Death was accompanied by the memory of the Sorrows and grief suffered by His Blessed Mother as she witnessed firsthand all the tortures and humiliations heaped without mercy on her innocent Divine Son because of the sins of mankind.


  The Sorrows of Mary did not begin with the Passion of Christ, however, but at the moment she gave her consent to the Archangel Gabriel when he announced that she had been preordained to become the Mother of the Messiah. From the time she was a little girl, Mary had been taught the Hebrew Scriptures by her mother, St. Anne, as well as the teachers in the Temple, to whom her parents entrusted her from the tender age of three. Knowing she was of the lineage of King David, and the future Messiah would come from this same lineage, Mary also knew that this same Messiah would not be a worldly king like her ancestor David. Instead, the Messiah was prophesied to be “despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:3) Because of this, the Mother of the Messiah was to fare no better in her earthly life, and because of Him, was destined to become a Mother of Sorrows. She was reminded of this excruciating truth at the Annunciation, yet without hesitation she consented to God’s will for her out of her perfect love for Him and her immense love and pity for fallen mankind.


  Our Lady herself revealed the above truth to numerous mystics throughout history, but the following is quote from one who belonged to our present times. On August 15, 1923, Our Lady explained to the Servant of God Sister Josefa Menendez: “Though my Heart adhered to the Divine Will with entire submission, it was drowned in a sea of bitterness and woe...I knew all that this tender and heavenly Child was destined to endure. I kissed those little hands, and felt my lips already stained with the Precious Blood that one day would gush from their wounds. I kissed His feet, and already saw them nailed to the Cross. And as I carefully tended His hair, I pictured it all clotted with blood and entangled in the cruel thorns.”


  To St. Mechtilde (13th Century) Christ instructed: “Greet the heart of My mother as the most patient of hearts, for it was pierced by thousands of swords, both during My Passion and Death, and afterwards when she remembered these dreadful torments.”


  To Blessed Veronica of Binasco (15th Century) He said: “The tears which you shed in compassion for My sufferings are pleasing to Me, but...on account of My love for My mother, the tears you shed in compassion for her sufferings are still more precious.”


  The apparitions at Castelpetroso beginning in 1888 uniquely present the symbiotic relationship between Our Lord and His mother in regards to our redemption. Here, too, as in Lourdes and Fatima, Our Lady chose the humble: Fabian (aka Bibiana) Cicchino, thirty-five, simple and honest peasant, born and resident in Castelpetroso, and Serafina Valentino, thirty-four, also a native and resident of Castelpetroso.




  Devotion to the Sorrows of Mary in conjunction with devotion to the Passion of Christ has been a recurring theme in recent approved private revelations of Our Lord and Our Lady. Each of Our Lady’s apparitions refer to Christ’s Passion either directly: Fatima (1917), Garabandal (1961-1965); indirectly: LaSalette (1846), Lourdes (1858), Beauraing (1932), Banneux (1933); or through symbols: (Rue du Bac (1830), Pontmain (1871), Pellevoisin (1876), Knock (1879). Likewise, each approved revelation of Jesus inevitably refers to the sufferings of His Blessed Mother.


  Jesus has repeatedly commanded all mankind to fulfill His desire to place devotion to His Mother’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart side by side with His own, or else He will not grant the world the peace it so desperately seeks. This symbiotic (i.e., mutually interactive and beneficial) relationship between the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, however, is not a new idea or teaching originating in these private revelations. Its foundation is revealed throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and has been expounded upon and passed on by the Apostles themselves in their deposit of oral Sacred Tradition.




  March 22, 1888, was initially a day like any other for two peasant women from Castelpetroso, a small hamlet in the province of Isernia, Italy. Fabiana Cicchino (aka 'Bibiana') and Serafina Valentino spent the day working the fields in an area known locally as "Cesa tra Santi'; while two sheep they had brought with them grazed on the mountainside. It was late afternoon when the women, exhausted from their labors, went to fetch the sheep only to find they were nowhere to be seen. The pair split up to search for the animals and Bibiana presently came upon a dry ravine where she spotted the sheep standing outside a small cave emitting a dazzling light. When she peered into the cave's interior, the woman beheld an apparition of the Blessed Vlrgin Mary kneeling beside the lifeless Body of her

Divine Son.


  Bibiana called out excitedly for Serafina, and the latter soon arrived on the scene, but Serafina saw nothing but a dark, empty cave. Although initially incredulous, Serafina's doubts dissolved as Bibiana described with genuine emotion what she was seeing. When the apparition disappeared the women returned to Castelpetroso with their sheep and shared their story with the other villagers but almost no one believed their account. Even the discovery the following day of a spring gushing vigorously out of what had previously been parched earth did nothing to win over the skeptics.

  The two women nevertheless continued to work the fields at Cesa tra Santi, and made it a point to visit the cave each day before retiring for the night, but the apparition did not return. Nevertheless, since both held the vision to be genuine, they prayed before the grotto and put up a cross at the spot as a memorial to the event. As it was the Lenten season, Bibiana and Serafina did not work on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, but the two women continued to pay a visit to the cave on these days, since it was precisely the events of Good Friday that were commemorated in Bibiana's vision.


  On April 1, 1888, Easter Sunday, the two women again paid a visit to the cave and found the radiant apparition waiting for them when they arrived. This time Serafina saw the Blessed Virgin and her Divine Son along with Bibian, and the latter confirmed that the heavenly scene was identical in every detail to the one she had seen on March 22.


  The Blessed Virgin was attired in a violet dress and a blue mantle. Her Immaculate Heart was visible on her breast, pierced with seven swords. Our Lady's face, though incomparably beautiful, manifested a heart-wrenching expression of profound grief and her eyes were raised heavenward; they never once lowered to look at the two women. The Virgin's arms were stretched out in front of her, palms facing upward, as she knelt before her Son's lifeless body. Her entire attitude bespoke a combination of offering and supplication to the Eternal Father.


  The lifeless Body of Christ was laid out on a white burial sheet, with His torso propped up and His Sacred Head resting on a small boulder. Except for a loincloth, Our Lord was naked, allowing all His wounds to be displayed. Beside His Body lay the Crown of Thorns and the three Nails that had fastened Him to the Cross.


  When Bibiana and Serafina returned to Castelpetroso with the announcement of the second vision, the majority of the villagers believed them this time. A large number returned with them to the grotto to venerate the place of the apparition, and although the numbers of pilgrims increased over the months that followed, there were no additional visions.






  The priest of the diocese of Castelpetroso not only treated the whole affair as a delusion, but publicly preached against it from the pulpit of his church. He could not, however prevent his congregation from going in pilgrimage to the spot of the apparitions.


  Another priest, a very old man, who had also disbelieved in the apparitions, went and saw and was changed. The following is his own narrative of what took place: “I had many times derided those who visited the mountain on which these wondrous apparitions took place. On May 16, 1888, however, more to pass the time than for anything else, I felt a desire to visit the place. When I arrived I began to look into one of the fissures, and I saw with great clearness Our Lady, like a statuette, with a little Child in her arms. After a short interval I looked again at the same spot; and, in place of the Most Holy Virgin I saw, quite clearly, the dead Saviour bearing the crown of thorns and all covered with blood. From that time forward when I have heard a mention of that thrice-blessed mountain and of the Apparition I have felt myself moved to tears, and have not been able to say a word.”


  The news of the apparition spread throughout the countryside, and it wasn't long before Monsignor Francesco Macarone Palmieri, the Bishop of Bojano who was responsible for the parish of Castelpetroso, learned of the events. Although he tried to be inconspicuous in handing the claims of the two peasant women, Pope Leo XIII was apprised of the apparitions of the "Virgo Addolorata" (Sorrowful Virgin), and Pope Leo ordered the Bishop to go to Castelpetroso as his delegate to investigate the matter personally.


  Perhaps there is no evidence more powerful to convince a bishop of the authenticity of a private revelation in his jurisdiction than for that same bishop to experience the revelation for himself. As a result of actually seeing the apparition himself, Bishop Palmieri afterward reported the following to Pope Leo XIII: “With a confident mind I can affirm that the miracles of the Castelpetroso are the latest measures of the Divine Mercy to recall sinners to the righteous path. I am also able to testify that, having come to the hallowed place in prayer for determining authenticity, I myself witnessed the apparition of the Virgin.”


  Even though Bishop Palmieri confirmed having seen the vision himself, and followed that up with his report to Pope Leo XIII, he still did not move to publicly declare the apparitions to be of Divine origin right away. Bishop Palmieri prudently chose to observe the course providence wished to take in regard to the events. He wondered, would there be more apparitions? Cures? Conversions? Miracles?


  The answer came the following November of 1888. A journalist from Bologna named Carlo Acquaderni paid a visit to the grotto of Castelpetroso, and brought along with him his 12-year-old son Augusto, who suffered from tuberculosis of the bones. The Acquadernis were unexpectedly favored with the apparition of the Virgo Addolorata, the fourth and final appearance, and afterward, when Augusto drank the water from the nearby spring, the boy was completely cured of his disease. After a detailed inquiry into the new developments, Bishop Palmieri was satisfied with the testimony of both witnesses, as well as the authenticity of Augusto’s cure. Heaven’s involvement of the Acquadernis in the events at Castelpetroso was enough confirmation for Bishop Palmieri to legitimize the apparitions as a true work of God.


  On December 6, 1973, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Addolorata of Castelpetroso the patroness of the province of Isernia. On September 21, 1975, the newly completed sanctuary was finally inaugurated by Bishop Alberto Carinci. On March 19, 1995, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to the Sanctuary.


Sanctuary and Shrine Grounds


  In thanksgiving for his son’s cure, Carlo Acquaderni gave the Bishop his full support in raising funds to build a sanctuary at the Cesa tra Santi. As Castelpetroso’s fame began to spread, generous donations from the Catholic faithful throughout Italy and from neighboring countries began to stream in for the building of a shrine. Carlo Acquaderni enlisted the talents of Francis Gualandi, an engineer from his native Bologna, to work up plans for a fitting memorial to the apparitions.


  The first stone was blessed and set in place by Bishop Palmieri on September 28, 1890, but the final form of the shrine as seen today would take nearly a century to complete.


  Castelpetroso is the largest shrine in the world dedicated exclusively to the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but, as with any Church-authorized Marian shrine, all the devotions directed toward Our Lady there are secondary to the worship of her Divine Son in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. Yet once again, we see in this perfect symbiotic relationship between the Mother and the Son that is the genuine substance of true Marian shrines: the pilgrim begins by journeying to the shrine out of love and veneration for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and finishes in the adoration of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Needless to say, the Sanctuary, and the Shrine grounds, are unbelievably beautiful and worth the time and the money spent on the visit.


  It is hoped that, as the fame of this unique shrine spread, pilgrims from every country around the globe will discover for themselves this sanctuary - hand-picked by Heaven - that so fittingly illustrates the reason why Our Lord will not settle for anything less than having all mankind recognize His beloved mother’s justly-deserved prerogative to reign at His side over all His creation for all eternity.


The Message of Our Lady of Sorrows of Castelpetroso


  What is the message that Our Lady wanted to leave to Italy and to the world through the apparitions of Castelpetroso? In Lourdes she asked for prayer and penance. In Fatima she also asked for sacrifices for sinners and pointed to the Holy Rosary to obtain any grace. At Castelpetroso, Our Lady did not speak, or rather spoke through her own attitude. In the apparitions at Castelpetroso, the Virgin Mary is in a very different attitude from the one with which the Lady of Sorrows is usually presented, as commonly evidenced from popular piety; even here her face expresses immense sorrow, but she is in a regal attitude of priestly motherhood; kneeling, she has her arms extended in an act of offering: she offers Jesus, the fruit of Her womb, to the Father, as the Victim of expiation for the sins of humanity. Aware of the redemptive mission of Jesus who must redeem humanity precisely through suffering and before the Crucified Son, she, “lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim generate by her”, as Lumen Gentium says (No. 58), accepts the Will of the Father, uniting herself with the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.


  The attitude of Our Lady confirms a theological truth: God has associated the Blessed Virgin with the work of the redemption, and she, conforming herself fully to this will, with her suffering accepted and offered, has become

Co-redemptrix of the human race. All the sacrifices and pains offered, all the tears and sufferings of Our Lady of Sorrows, which reached their climax at the moment of Jesus’ death, by God’s pleasure, have coredeemed the whole of humanity, in union with the sufferings of the Redeemer, mixing Mary’s suffering as it could be said, with Christ’s own sufferings.


  The message of Castelpetroso is very profound and invites us to reflect on Mary’s co-redemptive pains, on the overabundance and super-effusion of the Mother’s love: as Mother Coredemptrix, she has generated us in the life of the grace at the price of indescribable suffering. Our Lady of Castelpetros taught us the need to cooperate in the sufferings of Christ as St. Paul said. The apparition showed her in a regal attitude of priestly motherhood; kneeling, she has his arms extended in an act of offering; she offers Jesus, the fruit of her womb, to the Father, as the Victim of expiation for the sins of humanity. God has associated the Virgin with the work of Redemption, and she, fully confirming to this will, with her suffering accepted and offered, has become Coredemptrix of the human race. This is the message of Castelpetroso: Holy Mary, as Mother Co-redemptrix, has regenerated us to the life of grace at the price of unspeakable suffering.



Garabandal Journal/September-October, 2014: Our Lady of Sorrows of Castelpetroso




  Devotion to the Mother of Sorrows dates back to the beginning of the Church. The first example we have is St. John at the foot of the Cross. This devotion was enshrined in Church history by the gospel narrative of St. John – “Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, His Mother…” (Jn. 19:35)


​  The Seven Sorrows of Mary are:


1. (Lk. 2:34, 35) The prophecy of Simeon.

2. (Mt 2:13, 14) The flight into Egypt.

3. (Lk. 2:43-45) The loss of the child Jesus in the temple.

4.                        The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.

5. (Jn. 19:25-30) The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.

6. (Jn. 19:34) The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.

7. (Lk.12:34) The Burial of Jesus.



PROMISES BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: According to St. Alphonsus de Liguori (The Glories of Mary) it was revealed to Saint Elizabeth that at the request of Our Lady, Our Lord promised four principal graces to those devoted to her Sorrows:


1. That those who before death invoke the divine Mother in the name of her Sorrows will obtain true repentance of all their sins;

2. That He will protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and will protect them especially at the hour of death;

3. That He will impress on their minds the remembrance of His Passion;

4. That He will place such devout servants in Mother Mary’s hands to do with them as she wishes and to obtain for them all the graces she desires.


​PROMISES BY OUR LADY: In addition to the four graces above there are also seven promises by Our Lady attached to the practice of daily praying seven Hail Mary’s while meditating on Our Lady’s Tears and Sorrows. These seven promises were revealed to St. Bridget of Sweden:


1. “I will grant peace to their families.”

2. “They will be enlightened by the divine mysteries.”

3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”

4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”

5. “I will defend them in the spiritually battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant in their lives.”

6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.”

7. “I have obtained (This Grace) from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

bottom of page