Cycling, religion and faith.

A few weeks ago, I got a Madonna del Ghisallo medal from Aquinas and More Catholic Goods online.

For those who aren’t aware, the Madonna del Ghisallo is the patroness of cyclists.


Medieval legend says that Count Ghisallo was travelling near the village of Magréglio when he was attacked by highway bandits. Spotting a image of the Virgin Mary in a roadside shrine, he broke away from his attackers and ran to it. There he took refuge, pled for Our Lady’s protection – and was miraculously saved from the robbers.

As the story spread, the Madonna del Ghisallo became known as patroness of local travellers. In more recent times, cyclists would often stop to rest and pray at the chapel, which is a local landmark, and is at the top of a steep hill. After World War II, Father Ermelindo Vigano, pastor at the shrine, proposed Ghisallo as the site of an Italian shrine for bicyclists, and she was given as patroness of cyclists on 13 October 1949 by Pope Pius XII. The chapel has become equal part religious shrine, part cycling museum, with artifacts and photos from the sport. There is an eternal flame that burns there in memory of the cyclists of are no longer with us, and services each Christmas Eve and the Feast of All Souls commemorate them.

I haven’t been wearing it too much, because apparently I’m allergic to the stainless steel chain that it came standard with. I replaced the chain with one that is supposed to be sterling, but either I’m allergic to that as well, or it’s also stainless like the original chain, but mis-packaged.

Another option is that Jesus doesn’t love me like he does A-Train, and is throwing down a blight upon my soul.

You see … I’m not Catholic; I was baptised as an Episcopalian (a.k.a. Catholic-Lite), and I’ve never been terribly religious. So some might call my wearing of a Madonna del Ghisallo medal as slightly blasphemous.

I’ve always tried to think of it this way. I’m not religious, but I do have my faith … and I certainly don’t see anything wrong with asking for a little extra protection whilst riding my bike. Even Lance Armstrong, a self-proclaimed atheist, used to wear a cross (along with a Texas charm) on a chain around his neck.

So I’ll keep looking for an appropriate chain; or I’ll deal with the allergic dermatitis until my body realizes that this is something I need to do for me.

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