Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of cyclists

Madonna del Ghisallo is a hill in Magreglio, close to Lake Como in Italy. It is named after an alleged Marian apparition.

According to the legend, the Medieval count Ghisallo was travelling by the hamlet of Magréglio when he was attacked by bandits. He saw an image of Virgin Mary at a shrine, ran to it and was saved from the robbers. The apparition became known as La Madonna del Ghisallo, and she became a patroness of local travellers.

In later times, the hill Madonna del Ghisallo was made part of the Giro di Lombardia bicycle race and has often featured in the Giro d’Italia as well. The church sits atop a steep hill that climbs up from the shores of Lake Como. It became a natural stopping point for cyclists.

Made it!

For this reason a local priest, Father Ermelindo Vigano, proposed that La Madonna del Ghisallo 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.


To visit the church and the museum was our goal of the day.

The route up the hill was a pleasant drive and we passed plenty of cyclists on the way up. The Church was very small and packed full of cycling memorabilia including bikes and shirts and also remembers those who have lost their lives whilst cycling. It was moving to see how many people wanted to visit though, there was a constant stream of cyclists and tourists alike stepping inside the church.

View towards Lake Como

We then visited the museum. It was well laid out, as you walked through the bikes and rider exhibits got more modern. There were bikes and shirts from many famous riders such as Stephen Roche,  Eddy Merckx, and Lance Armstrong amongst others and famous races such as Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, I’m not sure that Armstrong deserves to have have a place in the museum.

After a very enjoyable morning it was off to Turin.

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