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In 1962, the Spanish architect Julio Lafuente received the request to build a church, in at once modern and traditional style, which is a true architectonic hymn to God’s Merciful Love; after three years of construction, the Church was dedicated and inaugurated by the Bishop of Todi and Cardinal Ottaviani, in the presence of 60 bishops of different nationalities.
The marquee of the door, formed by a low and thick plaque of cement, forces the pilgrim to recognize the limit and the fragility of the human condition.
The interior, on the contrary, vast, brilliant and svelte, represents the greatness of God’s love and forgiveness.
The light is one of the fundamental elements of this building, as if it was the most precious material; it penetrates not through conventional windows but through numerous and diverse sources and in various directions: the small openings of the facade, the crack in the form of a cross in the ceiling, the cone of the copula, the portholes of light in the cylinders, and the stain glass windows of the walls.
In the center, on the red pavement, the altar, the ambo, and the tabernacle of marble white stand out, and above them an enormous copper crown, which surrounds them, thus highlighting the most sacred part of the church.
To sing the marvels of Merciful Love, behind the altar, above on the right, is the organ, grand and full of life, from the Casa Tamburini, with a protruding set of trumpets in brilliant metal.
The Basilica is also original because of its walls, formed by enormous cylinders, which are hollow and, so, can contain numerous chapels.
The chapel near the Tabernacle is dedicated to Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, apostle of God’s Merciful Love. She appeared to Mother Esperanza in her childhood and said to her: “I come on behalf of the Good Jesus to tell you that you have to continue what I began …”
In the next chapel, towards the exit, is the Virgin Mediatrix, with a lily on the chest, from where the Eucharist blooms. With the open arms, by her attitude, she implores the mercy of her divine Son; with this special maternal touch, raised to heaven, she continues to obtain eternal salvation for us. The work was made by the painter Elis Romagnoli.
The image of the Child Jesus, placed in the next chapel, is intended to remind us that the Lord, already from before the cross, showed us his Merciful Love by his Incarnation, by taking our human nature in the humility of the manger.
The last chapel, at the back of the church, is dedicated to the souls of the purgatory. The empty niches in the stone of the altar remind us of mercy of God, who wanted the resurrection of our bodies at the end of time, by virtue of Jesus’ Resurrection, which alone had the power to kill the death.
In the first cylinder to the left of the entrance, is an elevator that connects the crypt with the Basilica.
In the next chapel, a series of paintings represent the main events of the Lord’s life. Their arrangement in the form of cross suggests that whole reason for Christ’s existence was the sacrificial act for our salvation: “Since He had not known the sin, God identified him, for us, with the sin.” The work was realized by the Spanish painter Mariano Villalta, just like the Crucifix in the stained glass window over the entrance of the Basilica.
In the next cylinder, confessionals are arranged in a circle. Above them, there is an enormous wooden cross. The group reminds us that, in the sacrament of the reconciliation, every person can experience, in a special way, that God’s mercy is stronger than the sin.
On the wall of the next chapel, four paintings by the painter Longaretti present the Merciful Jesus who was moved in the face of human suffering: he resuscitates the son of the widow of Naïn and the daughter of Jaïre; he cures the lepers and the paralytic. Only the Gospel can give us an idea of Jesus’ mercy during his life … spent doing good and curing any illness.
The small Virgin of the Pilar, worshipped in Spain, is represented in the penultimate chapel. It calls to mind the appearance of the Virgin to the Apostle Saint James, desperate in his work of evangelization; God uses Mary, as a privileged instrument, to attract the people to the road of the salvation.
In the last chapel, the Spanish artist Vaquero Turcios represented, in a tapestry, Saint Pierre and Saint Paul. The image with both Apostles, as two big columns, recalls the strength of God’s mercy, which is capable of transforming sinners into saints of an exceptional spiritual grandeur.
The church received the title of Basilica in memory of the visit of the pope Jean-Paul II to Collevalenza, on 22 November, 1981. On this day, feast of Christ the King, the Pope chooses this sanctuary to pronounce and confirm once again the message of his encyclical “Dives in Misericordia,” on the first anniversary of its publication.