The sanctuary is located north of Crema, about 1 km from the city centre. Where you can now see the Cathedralica Minore, in 1400 existed a small hamlet, sunk into the woods, located on the road from Crema to Bergamo. The wood was named Novelletto and the road exited the city in correspondence of the current streets of Via S.Chiara and via Borgo S.Pietro, besides the Pianengo gate. The sanctuary rose after 1490, after Caterina degli Uberti was killed by her husband.
The historical sources report that:
“On February 13th 1489 Caterina degli Uberti, member of a well-off family in Crema, married Bartolomeo Pederbelli also known as Contaglio, a convicted felon from Bergamo already banned from his province of origin and from long time resident in Crema, where he obviously kept silent his condition as a fugitive.
During the following year the relationship was all but easy, the quarrels between Contaglio and Caterina’s family for the dowry payment are reported by many sources.
According to the historical documentation, on the evening of April 2nd 1490, Contaglio talked Caterina into (or maybe forced her to) following him to go back to his family in the province of Bergamo. About a mile outside Crema he deviated from the road to Bergamo (the current via Mulini) reaching the depths of the “Novelletto” wood. Hence Contaglio assaulted his wife wounding her repeatedly with his sword (still kept in the sanctuary); the blows were so violent that Caterina was seriously injured in the head and arms, and her right hand and part of her forearm were severed away; but while the murderer was still hitting her, the sword broke in two pieces, but he was still not content; to make sure to kill his wife, he stabbed her in the back with a dagger, but the blade did not penetrate the body, maybe slipping upon the smooth surface of the dress; nonetheless, Caterina got a bad bruise near her left shoulderblade. Contaglio escaped, carrying his luggage and other things, amongst which, four golden rings stolen to Caterina. No news of him were reported ever since.
The agonizing woman asked the Virgin’s help to receive the final sacraments and there appeared a poorly dressed woman who said: ”I am the one you invoked”. Hemorrages suddenly stopped and Holy Mary could carry Caterina to a farm nearby to receive first aid. But it was late night by then and Caterina had to wait the morning to be brought to Crema.
There she was visited by a doctor and questioned by a “Malefice Judge” (a magistrate from Veneto), then the priest don Filippo from the parish of Saint Benedict gave her the sacraments. Only at that point the hemorrhages took strength again and Caterina passed away.
As the sources report, a small wooden cross was placed on the spot of the appearance. One month later, on May 3rd, day of the celebration of the Holy Cross, a boy afflicted with a serious disease in his foot that caused him inability to stand on his own, was led to the Novelletto. After saying prayers the boy was able to walk again: it was the first miracle to gather a big crowd. The chronicles report another forty-something prodigious healings that same day.
The next day, May 4th, a solemn procession went to the Novelletto wood, where a small altar was built and decorated with a relief image of the Virgin with the Holy Infant, a gift from the Milanese Gianfranco Cotta. On May 5th many claimed to see tears rolling down the image. That day about 80 mysterious healings took place. Always on May 5th, the city council decided to build a sanctuary on the location of the appearance. The chronicles report further miracles on May 18th and June 2nd”.