“The National Shrine of Mary Mother and Queen is located on a karst ridge 330 meters above sea level, on Mount Grisa, with a spectacular view of the city and visible from all the towns overlooking the gulf. Due to its size and location, the temple is considered to be the most majestic religious building in Trieste.
“If with the protection of the Madonna Trieste is saved, I will make every effort to have a church erected in her honor”. On 30 April 1945, the archbishop of Trieste, Monsignor Antonio Santin, made a vow to the Madonna for the salvation of the city threatened with destruction by the war. In 1948, after the war, Msgr. Strazzacappa, at the end of a program proposed to rekindle devotion to the Madonna throughout Italy by making known the message of Fatima, proposed to build a temple of national interest dedicated to the Madonna in Trieste. 10 years later in 1958 during a meeting of the Italian Bishops’ Conference held in Rome, the wish of the Supreme Pontiff Pius XII was taken into serious consideration, who invited the Italian Bishops, as had already been done in other countries, to consecrate Italy to Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 1959, Pope John XXIII decided that the Temple in Trieste would be dedicated to Mary Mother and Queen as a symbol of peace and unity among all peoples. From April to September 1959 the so-called “pilgrimage of wonders” took place and the statue of Our Lady of Fatima crossed the 92 provincial capitals of Italy starting from Sicily and ending in Trieste on September 17, 1959, when Monsignor Antonio Santin took delivery of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
On 19 September, the first stone of the great Temple was finally placed on Monte Grisa. It was the time of the “cold war” and the Sanctuary located right on the borders of Communist Europe, would thus become a symbol and a plea for union between peoples, in particular between the West and the East. the statue of the Madonna returned to the Chapel of Fatima and the Bishop of Leiria, Monsignor Joao Pereira Venancio, under whose jurisdiction the Sanctuary of Fatima is located, welcomed the desire of many pilgrims to have a copy of the statue of the Madonna in the Temple in Trieste and he wanted to bring her personally from Portugal to Trieste. It arrived in Trieste by sea and was transported in procession to the Church of San Giusto, remained there for almost 6 years, until the construction of the sanctuary consecrated on May 22, 1966 was completed. The Marian Temple of Monte Grisa collects the memory of four national events: the vow made by Msgr. Santin for the salvation of Trieste (April 30, 1945), the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (September 13, 1959), the memory of the fallen and missing soldiers (1945) and the drama of the Julian-Dalmatian Exodus.
The Sanctuary was designed by Eng. Antonio Guacci, professor at the University of Trieste, at the end of the 1950s based on a sketch by the archbishop of Trieste and Koper Antonio Santin. The designer was inspired by the “solitary diamond” set on the ring of the beauties of Trieste, and his intent was to attract everyone’s gaze upwards, following the example of the Virgin Mary to whom the Temple is dedicated.
The module used for the reinforced concrete building is the isosceles triangle, with the base equal to the height, a geometric figure that is repeated in every architectural element, rich in multiple symbolic meanings. The triangle in biblical symbolic language represents the transcendence of God and evokes the letter M as a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
There are two churches: lower and upper. The lower church, oriented from North to South, with its baseness, symbolizes humanity in its creatural dimension and with the intertwining of light beams and shadows it gives an aura of mystery inside that invites reflection and silence.
In addition to the main altar, dedicated to the unknown soldier, it is dotted with altars and a chapel. The upper church, oriented from East to West with its eminent height, symbolizes transcendence, divinity. The glass walls give the classroom transparency and brightness that make it in continuity with the sky, the sea and the surrounding vegetation and the large triangular profile of the structure with the tip inwards, to form the bell compartment, draws a large “Emme” (M) the monogram of Mary
The glass triangles that cover the facade supported by reinforced concrete ridges form a long sequence of letters (A) and (M) which represent the initials of the angelic greeting: “Ave Maria”.
The interior of the upper church is modeled like a honeycomb due to the multiplicity of hexagonal elements that cover its walls, so much so that they resemble the lattice of cells, filled with honey, of a hive. This symbolic dimension actualizes the charisma of the Temple which reads: ”from this honeycomb, the Temple; the mother and queen bee, the Madonna; she wants to dispense her honey, her heavenly graces to all those who come to pray to her “.
The lateral altars, with a triangular shape, form the “emme” (M) of Mary and the form of the triangle also appears in the cross above the altar of the Eucharist, composed of a dense weave of large colored crystals that form the 5 lobes of the cross, signifying the 5 wounds of Jesus crucified.
It is said that at the dawn of the Temple project, Msgr. Antonio Santin had a premonitory dream: he saw on a rocky spur a ship with its prow facing the sea with its sails unfurled to the wind.The ship is a symbol of the Church, but also of Mary of which she is the model, dawn and mother: always ready with her graces to accompany her maternally to the safest port. Eng. Guacci does not seem to have disregarded the prophetic vision of his client: the lower church, in fact, resembles the “hold” of a ship. The upper church, on the other hand, resembles the “deck” of a ship, where the main altar indicates the ” command bridge “: the” helmsman “Christ uniting her to himself with his spirit, pushes her towards the glory of the Father. The altar of Our Lady, on the other hand, in front of the altar of the Eucharist suggests the” route “of the ship : “Do what He tells you” (Jn 2,5).
The external facade of the building shows 3 large architectural dimensions: the pyramid to indicate the transcendence, the composition of the triangles to indicate its plurality and its monolithic structure to indicate its unity. In the composition of these 3 great symbols, the Temple, even from the outside, announces an ever-current message: “unity in plurality is reached when you look up, where you can see more of what unites rather than what divides”.