The Santuario della Madonna della Quercia is a monastery about 2 kilometres outside the city walls of Viterbo. The church contains works of art by Andrea della Robbia, Andrea Bregno and Antonio da Sangallo.
Santuario Madonna della Quercia Viterbo
Where the monastery now stands, there used to be a vineyard that belonged to Battista il Chiavare. In order to protect his property from robbers, in 1417 he had Monetto paint an image of the Madonna on a tile, which was then attached to an old oak tree.
After a passing hermit had taken the image with him, the tile returned to the oak. The same thing happened after Donna Bartolemea had taken the relic to her house.
According to other sources, the inhabitants of Viterbo considered the image to be responsible for ending a plague epidemic that struck the city in 1467.
Whatever the true story, after these miraculous events a church of course had to be built on the spot. The construction of this church took 80 years. When the building was completed, the Dominicans were given control of the church.
The oak tree was sawn off and, together with the tile, placed in a small temple inside the church. The designer was Andrea Bregno. The sculptures and paintings in this temple date back to the 17th century.
The architect was Giuliano da Sangallo, who also built a monastery next to the church. The construction lasted from 1470 to 1538.
The road leading to the Santuario della Madonna della Quercia was opened by Pope Paul III in 1540.
What to see
The tympanum is decorated with statues of two lions on either side of an oak tree. Underneath it are three rose windows, together with the coat of arms of Julius II, who was pope while the church was being built.
The terra cotta lunettes were made by Andrea della Robbia.
The bell tower has two bells, the larger one dating back to 1528 and the smaller one to 1654.
The gold used for the ceiling, which was designed by Antonio da Sangallo, was brought from America by Columbus.
The portraits of the apostles in the church are painted by Cesare Nebbia.
Filippo Prosperi was responsible for the painting decorating the dome (1867).