Some 18km south of Modena, between Sassuolo's Ducal Palace and the industrial zones of Maranello, is the suburb of Fiorano Modenese. Here, on a commanding hilltop stands the Santuario della Beata Vergine del Castello di Fiorano.
Like Modena's Chiesa del Voto, this is a plague church, built not to thank the Virgin for finally ending the plague, as at Modena, but from keeping it away entirely. A powerful castle once occupied this spot, until the troops of that most troublemaking pope, Julius II, destroyed it during his campaigns to subdue Modena. An image of the Virgin was saved from the wreck and thereafter regarded as a miracle-worker. She had already saved Fiorano from a Spanish army bent on burning it down, and after she warded off the plague it was obvious to everyone she needed her own church.
It was designed by Bartolomeo Avanzini, architect of the palace at Sassuolo; though begun in 1634, parts of the facade weren't finished until 1889. The two buildings went up at about the same time, and some of the same artists were employed in their decoration. Much of the interior painting, including the wild flying saints frescoed inside the cupola, was done by Sebastiano Caula, a student of Sassuolo's Jean Boulanger.
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Image by Comune di Maranello