While there’s always been a close affinity between the sport of cycling and Christianity, I was not aware that both the Giro d’Italia and the Giro di Lombardia had its own spiritual designee – Father Daniele Laghi of the Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel.
According to the legend, the Medieval count Ghisallo was being attacked by bandits when he saw an image of Virgin Mary at a shrine. He ran to it and was saved from the robbers. The apparition became known as the Madonna del Ghisallo, and she became a patroness of local travellers. In later times, Madonna del Ghisallo (the hill) was made part of the Giro di Lombardia bicycle race and has often featured in the Giro d’Italia as well.
For this reason a local priest, Father Ermelindo Vigano, proposed that Madonna del Ghisallo (the apparition) be declared the patroness of cyclists. This was confirmed by Pope Pius XII.
Nowadays the shrine of Madonna del Ghisallo contains a small cycling museum with photos and artifacts from the sport. There also burns an eternal flame for cyclists who have died. Father Daniele Laghi is its humble Chaplin.
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