Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Oak at Bettola
Construction of the shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Oak, in the imposing piazza Colombo, was completed in 1884 in celebration of the Marian apparition of 1496. The church was consecrated the following year by the Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza.
The building, designed by Guglielmo Della Cella in pure Lombard-Romanesque style, with a façade in black and white stones, was achieved through the participation of the whole population, who not only performed manual work but also collected the offerings necessary for buying material. The notary's deed confirms that the land where the parish church of San Giovanni stands was given by the Bianchi family in 1870. The family has a perpetual right to a grating opening on to the left side of the shrine.
The entire church was built from stones transported from the bed of the River Nure by the parishioners. Chronicles of the time recount how signor Giovanni Perani, guardian of the prison, rang the bell to wake everyone at four in the morning, ringing it again at five, time to start the unpaid work. Men and women passed the stones along, piling them up in front of the church under construction. At 11 another blast on sig. Giovanni's trumpet announced it was time for the women to return home to prepare lunch for their famished husbands, who stopped work at noon precisely.
Inside the church are fine frescoes and stained glass by the painter Luciano Ricchetti and sculpture by Paolo Perotti (1970) and Giorgio Groppi (1987). The beautiful screen of the shrine in wrought iron should be noticed, made with great skill in the Leonardi smithy of Grazzano Visconti.
The campanile rises beside the church, slim and elegant, 54 metres of zebra stripes. On top of the pyramidal spire an austere guardian angel raises the torch of brotherhoood in his right hand, dedicated to all those who have fallen in war or at work in the Nure valley.