The mystery of the number of portico leading to Madonna di San Luca.
Atop the hill, looming over the city of Bologna, sits the ancient sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Commanding an enviable position over the town it has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries.
The draw is a portrait of the Virgin Mary, said to be painted by Saint Luke himself, preserved in this location for more than one thousand years.
To get there, a pilgrims walks the world’s longest portico – a continuous covered series of connected archways – from the centre of the town, up the huge hill, to the church.
The mystery is that there are 666 archways connecting the city centre to the church. By what fiendish design did they construct the devil’s number of archways?
No, this is not a coincidence.
When we visited, at top the stairs sat a monk in a dirty white habit with translucent blue eyes and a long grey beard. “Aye, you be wanting to know the mystery of the archways?” he said.
Taken aback by his directness, I looked at him, startled.
“You must never give up – because overcoming trials is what makes us who we are.”