144 years ago, on May 8, 1876, the cornerstone was laid for a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompei. The church was built as a result of the efforts of an Italian man named Bartolo Longo, who was a convert to Catholicism and sought to encourage devotion to the Blessed Mother. Today, this Marian devotion is practiced throughout the world, and is honored in the Basilica in the Our Lady of Pompei Chapel.
The History of Our Lady of Pompei
In his youth, Longo was involved with the occult, but through the efforts of a childhood friend, he later converted to Catholicism. He went on to become a lawyer, and eventually moved to Pompei. There, he was stunned by the superstitious habits and spiritual ignorance of the people. One day, he experienced a miraculous encounter with Mary, where she instructed him to promulgate the rosary. This inspired Longo to build a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary near the ruins of Pompeii. Longo recalls in his book History of the Sanctuary of Pompei:
Having received from Heaven not one, but innumerable benefits, and not least among these, that of a life preserved, through the intercession of our great Mother, whom we venerate in Pompei by her title of the Rosary, I could not fail to realize my great debt of gratitude, and I felt my heart burn with an immense desire to love and praise Mary, and lead others to love and praise her.
Devotion to Our Lady of Pompei
Our Lady of Pompei is also known as Our Lady of Victory, with the rosary seen as a spiritual weapon in the battle against sin and evil in the world.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano said of Our Lady of Pompei,
Gathered round the gentle person of Our Lady of Pompei, let us resolve to call on her every day for our needs and the needs of the world.
We are surrounded by a society that needs more than ever the light of the Gospel. Our world is seeking peace. There are so many sufferings that cry out for help. There is such a great longing for justice and charity!
We wish to entrust our hopes to Mary’s motherly intercession. With the repetition of the prayers of the Rosary, we will turn to Mary with the insistent, trusting prayer of a child to his mother.
Our Lady of Pompei in the Basilica
The Great Upper Church of the Basilica contains a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pompei. The focal point of the chapel is a mosaic recreation of the painting of Our Lady of the Rosary that is in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompei. The walls of the chapel are adorned with a crucifix that was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to the Basilica, as well as depictions of the Luminous Mysteries.
Prayer to Our Lady of Pompei
The prayer in the Basilica chapel reads:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession through the Rosary was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Mother of Mercy, Virgin of virgins, powerful queen of Victories. To you I come, before you I stand: I implore compassion, I seek grace. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but through your most holy Rosary, graciously hear and answer me.