In the 6th century after Christ, Regolo and Cerbone left North Africa to escape the persecution they were facing. They brought with them the teachings of the Gospel and a small relic: a wooden sculpture, laid into a piece of Lebanese cedar, portraying the Madonna with child.
The wonders of the two pilgrims from Africa were many, who in the meantime had isolated themselves like hermits in the valley of the Cornia River. Their deeds were so great that the Church declared them Saints. The two left their precious sculpture in an abbey near Monteverdi, where it was kept for around six more centuries, until eventually the violence of men came and destroyed the place of worship. The abbey, which had many of the characteristics of a fort and was managed by monks, was in fact attacked and ravaged by the Pannocchieschi family, who brought with them death and destruction. It was only for the insight of a shrewd priest that the statue was kept safe and hidden in the woods, under the canopy of an ash tree.
Another century went by, when a cowherd taking his cattle to their pasture noticed a calf unusually breaking away from the herd and turning back. Curious, the cowherd followed it, and found the animal on its knees at the foot of an ash tree. Between its branches, to his utter marvel and incredulity, he noticed the statue of the Madonna.
The news of the incredible discovery spread, curiosity ran its course and many pilgrims visited the spot to express their devotion. As the story goes, from that point onwards, the blessings received were many. It was thus decided not to move the statue and to instead build a chapel where it lay, now known as the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Frassine.
Maybe Regolo and Cerbone had known that the incredible “Lebanese wood” had been carved by Luke the Evangelist, and it may be possible that they told the story of its origins to their contemporaries, in order for it to pass on, from generation to generation, to eventually arrive to us, surrounded by an air of legend.
In the meantime, various extensions and restorations have added a spark to the place of the miraculous rediscovery, so that today the Frassine is a striking hamlet surrounded by maritime woods and the charm of the Tuscan countryside. And still the spotlight remains on the Sanctuary, inside of which, on top of the old ash stump, stands a Madonna with child, surrounded by the many former prayers recalling the miraculous intercessions.
Those who now will travel to the Frassine will be struck by an immediate perception of peace and, if attentively absorbing the silence, will be able to distinguish the atmosphere and ancient energies that remain present there from a very distant past. A taste of mysticism and stillness that speaks the language of the soul, and that brings one to give way to its lightness and free one’s imagination, to then find something that recalls a time when a piece of carved wood witnessed those mysterious, fascinating and compelling adventures.