The origin of the sanctuary goes back to 1553 when the Madonna appeared to Leonardo Weissensteiner, a farmer from Pietralba plateau. The Madonna asked him to build a chapel in her honour.
In 1673, the little chapel had already become a church and in 1781 Mary's Servants, who kept it, built a monastery too.
Since then the number of pilgrims who climbed through the narrow valley of Laives, often doing penance, got bigger and bigger. Indeed, Pietralba is nowadays the most crowded sanctuary in Trentino Alto Adige.
Among the renowned visitors of the sanctuary there were also the Austrian emperor Charles VI, who also urged his subjects to honour the Madonna of Pietralba/Weissenstein, and, more recently, Albino Luciani who, in that period was still bishop of Vittorio Veneto and only later would have become the pope John Paul I.
The sanctuary got his current aspect between 1719 and 1722 when Johann Martin Gump, court architect in Innsbruck, and Agostino Maria Abfalterer, architect as well, projected new interventions. Other works were then made in 1753 when Giuseppe Dellai eventually gave to the church its baroque aspect. Although the new restoration and although the increasing number of visitors and pilgrims, in 1787, Joseph II emperor of Austria closed the sanctuary and the monastery forbidding any religious service. All the properties of the sanctuary were confiscated by the government and put up for auction, included the statue of the Pieta, that Leonardo Weissensteiner himself had put in the original chapel. The three towers of the church were destroyed and the same happened to the hermitages built near the sanctuary.
Luckily the buyer, Johann Gugler from Bolzano, saved the church and the monastery from destruction. The suppression caused the dispersion of the ex-voto too.
The re-birth of the whole complex started in 1800 and had its climax 24 August 1885 when, in the presence of 130 priests and 15 thousands devotees, Giovanni Giacomo Della Bona, the prince-bishop of Trent chaired the "coronation" of the Pieta, the statue considered thaumaturgical that Leonardo put in his chapel.
After that the recollection of the ex-voto was made too. Nowadays they are more than 4000 and they all testimony the many gifts received by the Madonna of Pietralba.
» The legend
- Where The Sanctuary of Pietralba/Weissenstein lies south of Bolzano, at 1521 m, in the valley of Laives.
- How to get there From Bolzano/Bozen continue southwards and tehn turn left into the SS 48. Continue as far as Pietralba/Weissenstein.