The city of Treviglio, in the diocese of Milan but in province of Bergamo, hosts a magnificent sanctuary dedicated to Madonna delle Lacrime, symbol of the generous and thankful faith of a very religious people, that believes the salvation of the city was due to a miracle from the Virgin.
In the first half of 1500, Lombardy was struck hard by the continuous battles between Francis 1st, king of France, and Charles 5th, Emperor of Germany, who aimed to take over the French properties in the area. The lieutenant of the French king in Milan was marshal Lautrec, who, according to the chronicles, was “harder than diamond, more cruel than a tiger and firmer than a rock”. The Frenchmen were forced to retreat to Como and Cremona, passing through Lecco and Bergamo. Treviglio was back in the dominion of the Sforza family. Some inhabitants, hyped up by a certain Giovanni Landriano, a supporter of the empire, repeatedly tried to assault the retreating French troops, thus Lautrec ordered to destroy Treviglio as a warning to other cities. On February 27th, 1522 came the news that Lautrec was moving from Cremona, with the intent of raiding and destroying Treviglio. The consuls and the clergy tried to negotiate, with no result. The people, hopeless by then, had only God and the Virgin Mary to rely on; churches were constantly crowded, every night was spent on prayer vigil. At dawn on February 28th, the city woke up in a funereal silence, broken only by sobs of despair. Suddenly a voice spread through the streets, greeted with great emotion: “Miracle! Miracle! The image of the Virgin in St.Augustin’s Church is crying and sweating!”.
What happened? Around 8 a.m. of Friday, February 28th 1522, the image of the Virgin painted on the wall of St.Augustin’s Church, near the Augustinian monastery, began to weep abundant tears from her eyes and sweat from her whole body. Some women, closer to the painting, suddenly felt some drops on their skin and at first thought it was raining; but, in spite of the steady dripping, the sky looked crystal clear and the wall beside the icon perfectly dry. Awe and astonishment were great when everybody realized that the Virgin’s eyes were crying and her body was covered in sweat. Everybody was hailing to the miracle and running to see with their own eyes. The French troops, once informed, reported to Lautrec who immediately rode to St.Augustin’s, saw the crying Madonna, opposed to the image of the Holy Infant nearby, that was completely dry, as was the adjacent wall. Deeply touched, he kneeled in front of the Virgin, trying to dry her tears with a cloth, but the tears kept rolling down for six straight hours.
The whole city was overwhelmed with joy, and Lautrec, strongly impressed, granted his mercy to the inhabitants of Treviglio. Festive bells were chiming, and everybody was celebrating. The commander and most of the officers kneeled in front of the Virgin laying down weapons, armors and superb helmets. The city erected a magnificent sanctuary in honor of the Virgin, a true monument to faith and art, symbol of the deep love and devotion of Treviglio to Mary. Her protection of the city is a recurrent theme in history. On June 14th 1617, present the Cardinal Federico Borromeo, the prodigious image of the Virgin of the Tears was moved from St.Augustin’s Church to the new sanctuary.
The date of February 28th is still celebrated with strong faith and devotion. That morning, the bells are silent, just like on Holy Friday; people silently gather in the sanctuary to pray in front of the miraculous image, now covered by a veil. At 8 o’clock, every bell of the city bursts in a long, festive concert, the veil covering the face of the Virgin is dropped and the general joy manifests in the thanksgiving chants.