On a warm spring day almost five centuries ago, on the 28th March 1543 to be precise, Giulia Manfredi, a young shepherdess, deaf since birth, was tending her family's cows and their few sheep at pasture on the green patch of land near her house.
Like every other day the girl stopped to pray silently in front of the little chapel dedicated to Our Lady and the Infant; that day among the branches of a wild plum tree (a whitethorn, referred to as “bocciolo” in the local vernacular) growing nearby the chapel, the Virgin Mary appeared and promised the young girl that she would be taken up into heaven; she asked her to let people know that, in return for the grace she was about to bestow, she wished to be solemnly honoured in that same place every Saturday afternoon.
“They wont believe me”, Giulia said to the Virgin, who told her to have faith; when the poor young girl got home she realised she had been granted the gift of speech and while she was telling everybody all about the apparition, the church bells, though nobody had touched them, began to ring festively.
News of the prodigious apparition quickly spread far and wide and Our Lady of Graces has attracted the faithful in large numbers ever since, from every village in the Alps and particularly from the Vallese area. From that day forward, as the Sanctuary's annals may confirm, many miracles have taken place, such as people whose lives have been saved in accidents and the seriously ill who have made a complete recovery.
The building of a Sanctuary began in 1628 at the site of the apparition to replace the original little chapel; it stands there today in its typically neoclassical style and sombre colonnade in pink granite while a few fragments of the wild plum tree on which Our Lady appeared are kept inside it.
One final piece of information for our guests: the Sanctuary is situated on the hill right above La Darbia; if you decide to walk there, take the very first road to the left just outside the gate (Via Giulia Manfredi); once you reach the little hamlet, called Vacciaghetto, at the top of the hill you'll notice a memorial stone on the wall of the first house to the right, which indicates where the young shepherdess lived.