Situated on a spur of rock sheer above the lake and recently restored, the Sanctuary of Montecastello is one of the most famous and well-loved sacred places in the Garda area, especially for its splendid position, for its architectural and artistic beauty and for the historical and religious events centred around it. The papal bull issued by Pope Urbano III in 1186 mentions a Monte della Stella (Mountain of the star).
The name derives from the bright star through which, legend affirms, the Virgin Mary intervened in the course of a battle between the armies of Brescia and Trent in the second half of the thirteenth century.
The intense light is supposed to have paralysed the soldiers of Trent who were thus defeated. At the end of the sixteenth century the bell tower and the presbytery were built; other works such as the addition of the actual church with a nave and two aisles, were carried out in the seventeenth century. Having gone through the imposing stone portal which has “ Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam” and the date 1679 written on it, you arrive in the churchyard.
Built on the ruins of an ancient castle, the building is made up of a lower Gothic-Romanesque church and an upper baroque church which is still used today. This houses, in the presbytery behind the altar, la “Casa Santa”, the remains of a small temple that is said to date back to the year 802.
The high altar (the work of Brescian artists, the Boscaì,) is extremely beautiful, with gilded wooden pillars with the figures of St. Peter and St. Paul on them. Behind the altar , with a glass front, you can see a fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus, attributed to the school painting of Giotto. The four medallions that surround this fresco are by Palma the younger and are painted on copper. Paintings by Andrea Celesti (1637 – 1712) are most interesting, as are the votive offerings, including one offered by the Comune of Tignale and attributed to Andrea Bertenza in gratitude for the killing (16 August 1617) of the notorious bandit Zuan Zanone Beatrici, known as Zanzanù .
With his gang he had terrorized the population of the area around the lake between the 16th and 17th centuries. There is a retreat house beyond the Sanctuary which attracts thousands of pilgrims each year…