The sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia

The sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia is an ancient Marian sanctuary. The building is located on the very summit of the ridge of Mount Tirasso, at 586 MASL, towering over the town of Alassio and its gulf.
The sanctuary is part of the Albenga-Imperia diocese. Since Medieval times, it had been home to a castle, the castrum Tiraculi, belonging to the town of Albenga who kept a look-out there.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, it became Benedictine property and a chapel was built within it, consecrated, according to legend, to the Stella Maris, invoked by seafarers. The castle was demolished in 1427.
In the 17th Century, the ruins were excavated to make way for the new sanctuary, to be made up of just one room and to be erected on the original site, of which the lower part of the semicircular opsis remained.
For the occasion, it was adorned with a valuable altar in white marble and embellished with statues depicting the Assumption, two large angels and Christ ascending to heaven, a statue that was subsequently destroyed in the 19th Century.
Small cells were constructed next to this, for the hermits who the sanctuary was entrusted to. Known as the “romiti” of the Guardia, the last known of these was recorded in around 1830.
In 1865, the semicircular apsis was erected, lit by two side windows and with the addition of an entrance. More important work took place from the 1950s to the 1970s, at the wishes of Mgr. Innocente De Ferrari, who at the time was provost of the San Ambrogio parish in Alassio, which the church falls under the control of. He considered the sanctuary as the “spiritual heart” of the local Church. The bell tower, 21 metres tall, was then erected and the church was transformed into three naves, as a new main section was created on the left side and the old guest room became the right nave. The vaults were decorated for the occasion of the Great Jubilee in 2000. The original name was Nostra Signora of the Assumption, which the Notre-Dame de la Garde church in Marseille was consecrated to; it was only in the 20th Century that the church was named Nostra Signora della Guardia after the Marian apparition to Benedetto Pareto on 29 and 30 August 1490 on Mount Figogna, near to Genoa (Mount Figogna being a look-out point or guardia in Italian).
The event is depicted in wooden group found in the apsis of the left nave.
To this day, the sanctuary is a pilgrimage site for the residents of Alassio and of towns in the surrounding valleys of Merula, Lerrone and Arroscia.