|Location:||Bombile, municipality of Ardore, in the province of Reggio Calabria.|
|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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|1507||church dedicated to Virgin Mary built.|
|1629||collapse killed some monks in their cells.|
|2000||collapse destroys part of the staircase to the church.|
|28-MAY-2004||landslide destroys part of the sanctuary.|
|08-JUN-2004||second landslide destros the rest of the sanctuary.|
|APR-2007||statue of Virgin Mary recovered from the cave.|
The Santuario della Madonna della Grotta in the small Calabrian town Bombile (49 inhabitants) is a cave church dedicated to Mary. The town is built on the flat top of a mountain ridge with steep cliffs on both sides. The ride runs from northwest to southeast and the sanctualy is located in the middle of the southwestern cliff face. The facade is located in the middle of the white sandstone wall, right above the pile of debris at the foot of the cliff. While there is a steep slope from the valey to the church, access is provided by a stone staircase from the top, cut into the sandstone.
Long ago the caves along the cliff face were a refuge for monks and hermits. There were numerous caves, closed by walls with a single door and sometimes a small window. In the 15th century the place was dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary. Legend tells, that the church cave was dug by Fra Jacopo from Tropea in 1507. He built it to live there as a hermit, there was a narrow staircase to reach the cave. The cave was consecrated in 1625, and in the 16th century the statue of Virgn Mary was brought to the cave. There was a series of renovation during the 19th century which resulted in a cave church with a marble altar and a stone staircase with 141 steps.
Unfortunately the cliff face is not very stable, and there have been numerous collapses and landslides since the place is used. A collapse in 1629 destroyed several cells and killed the monks living there. In 2004, only an hour after Don Alfredo Valenti held a mass for local pupils and exchange students from Malta in the the cliff adjacent to the church collapsed. The entrance of the church filled with debris from the collapse and the church was inaccessible. This happened 12:30, at 19:00 a firefighter was the first who was able to look inside the cave church using a small robot with a camera. He could see that nobody was trapped inside the cave church and the altar and madonna were unharmed. I the observant catholic town the people soon believed, that both the worshippers and the statue were preserved by Virgin Mary.
A few weeks later a second landslide destroyed the remaining caves and only the staircase remained. In 2007 the statue was removed from the collapsed cave and is now in a church also dedicated to Virgin Mary in nearby town Ardore. The sanctuarry is now completely destroyed and it is not possible to visit it, except for the staircase.