The aim of this blog isn’t to speculate on facts, and whether a story could be considered a legend or a miracle! The sole purpose is to share a tale, a miracle in this case, that is an integral part of my personal cultural background and the history of my home-town. It is up to you to judge, if you must, and believe it or not but I hope it will at least make you smile as today it is its commemoration.

In 1700 Italy was tormented by numerous earthquakes, the strongest of which was registered around the city of Arezzo. Citizens there feared that the repeated earthquakes and other odd natural events (such as sudden loud noises and the turbidity of the Arno River’s waters) were punishments from God for their sins. Legend goes that in the historic centre of the town there was an old inn where poor people used to go to, to have some cheap wine – it is important to know that in this inn there was a little terracotta image of the Virgin Mary from Provenzano, covered in dirt and grime! This story is about that image.

One night the ground started to shake violently again and everyone in the inn decided to pray to the Virgin image for forgiveness. Suddenly the little terracotta picture started to shine strongly and became clean. From that moment the earthquake stopped (and no other earthquakes of that intensity have been registered since, in the area) and the little terracotta image was taken to the main Cathedral of Arezzo (this happened on the 15th February 1796), where it still remains today, for people to visit and pray to it, asking for protection over them and the city.

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The little terracotta picture was canonized soon after and is considered to bless those who pray to it. Lovingly the town citizens named it ‘la Madonna del Conforto’ – ‘the Virgin of Consolation’.

In April of that same year the picture saved the city of Arezzo again, giving strength to the population so they could rebel against the French invasion. The population managed to resist the attack by the French army in the name of the Virgin, screaming “Viva Maria!” to give them strength in their hearts.

For all these reasons and more, even now, every 15th of February, the Virgin and her protective power over the city are celebrated. Every Aretino (citizen from Arezzo) goes to visit the holy picture in the chapel of the cathedral and bring thanks. They ask for help, never doubting the past, believing fully in its blessings.

Understanding culture is a vital part of any work with languages. Whether organising interpreting, translation or language learning, it is important to research the culture and history of a country so that you can better understand its people and then its language.