The Redemptorists arrived in Bussolengo thanks to the interest and insistence of Don Giuseppe Turri, a local priest, who intended to bring to a new life the former Franciscan convent located towards the Adige.
Don Turri had met the Congregation in 1830 in Vienna, where the memory of St. Clemente Maria Hofbauer, propagator of the Alphonsian Institute beyond the Alps, was still alive.
Twenty-seven years later the congregation founded by St. Alphonsus arrived in Bussolengo. The official inauguration of the new house was set for August 2, 1857.The devotion to Mary under the title of Mother of Perpetual Help began in 1875 with the arrival from Rome of an authenticated copy of the sacred icon, the two hundred and seventh one blessed by Pius IX.
The origins of the Sanctuary of the Mother of Perpetual Help are very remote (VIII century). The Church was dedicated to S. Mario and then to S. Zeno, S. Valentino alle Bastie and S. Francesco with the arrival of the Franciscans and later, with the Redemptorists, to the Mother of Perpetual Help.
The Franciscans rebuilt the church, as some dates still testify today: 1614 and 1615, carved respectively on the architrave of the church facade portal and on the jamb of the sacristy door.
These dates seem to indicate with sufficient reliability the final stages of the rebuilding of the church which, as another plaque in the upper part of the façade recalls, was further enlarged and raised in 1731. The Sanctuary was renovated by the Redemptorists in the sixties with a complex architectural work (Arch. Banterle) and the addition of two small aisles.
Inside the church you can admire paintings by Veronese painters from the sixteenth century. Behind the main altar is the canvas by Santo Prunati depicting the glorification of St. Francis. On the left side of the central nave a painting by Biagio Falcieri depicts the "Expulsion from the Temple"; on the right side “S. Francesco in La Verna receiving the Stigmata” canvas by Felice Cignaroli.
Next to the main altar stands the cross with the bronze copy of Christ by Tacca.
In addition to these precious works of art, next to the church it is also possible to admire a unique jewel of Veronese architecture: the Franciscan cloister of 1636, recently restored. In the whole life of the Sanctuary, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, the Christmas and Easter holidays and in particular the Month of May, which sees numerous devotees gather around the Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso and which ends with a solemn procession that gathers the faithful from all over the area and involves the whole country.
The Sanctuary has its own devotional periodical: The Perpetual Help of Mary.
According to an ancient tradition, the precious icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help, which dates back to the 14th century, was brought to Italy from the island of Crete by a merchant towards the end of the 1400.
From 1499 to 1798, the icon was exhibited in the church of S. Matteo in Rome (located near today's Church of Sant'Alfonso).
During the Napoleonic occupation, the church was destroyed, but the image of the Holy Mother was rescued and in 1819 placed in the church of S. Maria in Posterula.
The icon fell into oblivion for the next seventy years. After this period, a Jesuit, while preaching, mentioned the story of the disappeared painting.
It was then that Michele Marchi, the future Redemptorist, the one who remembered that the original icon was kept in the church of S. Maria in Posterula, where he had once been one of the boys helping during the Mess.
The Congregation of the Redemptorists, founded by S. Alfonso in 1732, asked Pope Pius IX to be able to keep the famous image in the church
of S. Alfonso in via Merulana, built right next to the place where the church of S. Matteo once stood.
After being restored by the Polish painter Leopold Nowotny, the icon was placed in the church in April 1866.
On May 5, Pius IX, visiting the sanctuary, entrusted the Redemptorists with the mission of making the image known throughout the world.
In the hundred years that have passed since the delivery of the icon, the Redemptorists, who experienced a great expansion on all continents, brought authentic copies of the icon to many countries, making it the best known in the whole world.
On June 14, 1596 the Bishop of Verona gave permission for the erection of the convent of the Minori Osservanti in Bussolengo. The construction was carried out from the beginning according to a specific project which included, as already mentioned, also the rebuilding of the existing church dedicated to SS. Zeno and Valentino.
The convent, characterized by a fascinating cloistered space with a quadrangular layout, is believed to have been completed in 1624, when the elegant well of the Sansovino school was placed in the middle of the courtyard, in white stone and two columns holding an architrave adorned with a frieze (on the which precisely the date is engraved) and a rich cymatium. The construction had to proceed with a certain gradualness, compatibly with the financial resources deriving from alms and donations from the population.
Today the cloister, after a recent restoration work, is almost intact becoming a precious testimony of that Franciscan cenobitic life marked by strict rules and daily rhythms.
Surrounded by arcades, the cloister constituted the vital nucleus around which the monastic organism was articulated and developed; for this reason this space is the richest and most ornate part of the convent complex. What makes the Franciscan cloister of the Redemptorist Fathers of Bussolengo unique of its kind is its rich pictorial decoration (1638) and the elegant architectural score.
In the porch, a complete cycle of frescoes by Muttoni shows the life and miracles of St. Francis. The 45 lunettes, painted in correspondence with the openings of the arches, are a testimony of undoubted value for the artistic quality of the work.
The author of the frescoes was Bernardino Muttoni the Elder, a well-known painter of cloisters in the Veronese area. Recent restoration work has made it possible to recover the original chromatic freshness of the pictorial cycle. During the Christmas period it hosts a precious collection of nativity scenes.
Our painting is an “Icon”, a Greek word which means “Image”. It is one of the most widespread in the world also because it is among the most copied. The icon aims to convey, more than a simple representation of a sacred subject, a content of a spiritual nature. Everything has a specific meaning: the colors, the monograms, the attitudes, down to the smallest details.
As we all known, monks used icons like this in preaching to the people. Our image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help has such a density in the symbols depicted that it communicates a very rich Christian message to those who look at it. In Greek characters we have the names of the four figures represented on the table.
In addition to the virgin, Jesus Christ and the Archangels Gabriel and Michael are depicted showing the instruments of the Passion: the cane, the sponge, the spear, the nails and the cross. The child Jesus, frightened by this vision, clings to the arms of the Mother.
The artist, willing to represent the anguish of Christ at the sight of the painful symbols, shown by the Angels, with a distinctly human trait, painted the right sandal that slips from the foot of the Child due to the abrupt movement he makes in turning.
While the Child clings tightly to the hand that Mary holds out to him to comfort him, the eyes of the Virgin, full of compassion, turn towards the one who looks at the scene.
The gold-colored background evokes perennial values and gives the message of the painting a character of eternity.
Mary, who so expressively participates in the passion of the Son invites all humanity to cling decisively to the Redeemer following his example. In this intuition, which springs from the image, it is possible to recognize Mary as the model and Mother of the Church. The painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for its symbolic depth is a real meditation book.
Contemplating it, one has the opportunity to probe and grasp the meaning of the Mystery of Christ and the role that the Mother had in it. The way in which the Virgin holds and reassures the Son gives the Christian the certainty of being able to be helped by this Mother in moments of anguish and pain.