Santuario della Beata Maria delle Grazie.

Frazione di Grazie del comune di Curtatone a 9 km da Mantova.

Le origini della chiesa sono da connotare addirittura al 1200; nella località, allora chiamata Prato Lamberto, su di un piccolo promontorio emergente da un dedalo di flora e canne lacustri, sorgeva un altarino con l’immagine della Madonna col Bambino a cui i pescatori del lago e i contadini erano particolarmente devoti. La devozione della gente della zona era antica e ben consolidata, in quei tempi l’ambiente lacustre era sì fonte di sostentamento ma anche di lavoro pesante, stenti e malattie, superstizioni e paure, la forza della fede era quindi di conforto e quella cristiana era solo successiva a quella anteriore pagana. Dal piccolo altare, nel corso degli anni, venne edificato un sacello con una cappella votiva per proteggere l’immagine sacra dalle intemperie. Col crescere della struttura architettonica, crebbe anche l’interesse per questa immagine miracolosa, diffondendo la sua fama per tutto il territorio limitrofo. Verso la fine del XIV secolo, per grazia ricevuta, Francesco Gonzaga fece erigere un tempio alla Madonna che aveva fatto cessare l’epidemia di peste, che aveva colpito i mantovani (questo episodio storico, come il precedente viaggio del Gonzaga in Terra Santa è forse da collegare a una scomunica ricevuta). I lavori furono affidati all’architetto Bartolino da Novara, che negli stessi anni progettò a Mantova il Castello di San Giorgio e quello Estense di Ferrara, la costruzione costò ben 30000 scudi d’oro e, a Ferragosto del 1398, la cappella venne consacrata al cospetto del suo committente e dei vescovi di Mantova e Cremona.

Dalla costruzione della basilica i pellegrinaggi verso questo luogo, che assumeva via via popolarità, si intensificarono e assieme alla povera gente dei paesi attorno, nobili, e persino l’imperatore Carlo V d’Asburgo, il papa Pio II e, più tardi, l’imperatore d’Austria Giuseppe II d’Asburgo-Lorena (allora regnante anche nella Lombardia austriaca, di cui Mantova era capitale insieme a Milano) visitarono l’immagine sacra. Iniziarono così tutta una serie di donazioni che apportarono anche alla struttura architettonica originaria delle modificazioni; alcune importanti famiglie mantovane fecero costruire cappelle private per la preghiera annesse al convento o all’interno della chiesa per seppellirci i propri avi. Persino Giulio Romano, su commissione, lavorò nella chiesa delle Grazie, opera sua e della sua scuola sono infatti il Mausoleo Castiglioni ed altri interventi nella sacrestia.

Dal 1412 fino alla fine del secolo vennero edificati il convento, la scuola, l’oratorio, la biblioteca, fino a quando nel 1521 sorse attorno al piazzale un portico di 52 arcate per il riparo dei mercanti dato che l’11 agosto 1425 il marchese Federico Gonzaga aveva fatto spostare la “fiera di Porto” iniziando la tradizione della fiera di ferragosto alle Grazie. Le costruzioni grazie alle donazioni e ai lasciti portarono la basilica a un grande complesso con svariati annessi, nel 1642 venne aggiunta nel piazzale una nuova ala di portici ed edificata la sagrestia con un altare. In ultimo, l’ambizioso progetto del 1700 per l’ulteriore espansione del complesso su richiesta della duchessa Anna Isabella Gonzaga di Guastalla, prevedeva l’edificazione di 15 cappelle sulla strada per Mantova, ma non venne mai terminato. Nel 1782 il convento fu chiuso e convertito a ospedale. Iniziò così il declino della Basilica, l’invasione napoleonica privò la collezione di ex voto di buona parte dei suoi tesori e il materiale contenuto nella ricca biblioteca venne disperso o distrutto; nel 1812, infine, venne smantellato buona parte del complesso architettonico.

Durante la Prima guerra d’Indipendenza contro l’Austria del 1848, qui fecero campo le truppe del Granducato di Toscana prima di recarsi alla famosa Battaglia di Curtatone e Montanara. A seguito della Battaglia di Goito del 30 maggio 1848 le truppe del Regno di Sardegna entrarono in paese. Re Carlo Alberto era curioso di visitare il Santuario in quanto intendeva osservare i manichini presenti all’interno. Tuttavia quando l’esercito arrivò all’entrata trovò i portoni chiusi. Si seppe solo in seguito che all’interno del Santuario i cittadini avevano portato circa cento feriti dell’esercito austriaco e che, spaventati, volevano nasconderli alla vista dell’esercito sardo. Il Generale Eusebio Bava motivò il gesto con la “tendenza verso la causa imperiale” degli abitanti del paese.

 

 

 

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