OUR LADY OF POMPEII
In the autumn of 1872, Bartolo Longo (a lawyer who was born at Latiano in Brindisi, Italy, on February 11, 1841, and died at Pompeii on October 5, 1926) arrived at the plain of Pompeii to take care of the affairs of Countess Marianna Farnararo De Fusco. In that fertile agricultural region infested with robbers he also began to spread the Rosary among the sharecroppers of De Fusco and the farmers of the place.
With his wife's help, he inaugurated a confraternity of the Rosary and he had need of a picture of the Blessed Virgin before which the Rosary could be recited every day. He obtained one as a gift from a religious of the Monastery of the Rosary at Porta Medina, Sister M. Concetta de Litala, who had been holding it for the Dominican priest Alberto Radente. The latter had acquired it from a junk-shop dealer in Naples for a very small sum. The painting was of modest artistic merit and in very poor condition. It portrayed Our Lady of the Rosary, with Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena.
Arriving at Naples on November 13, 1875, the picture was provisionally exposed in a small declining chapel. But in that same month, Bartolo Longo received permission from the Bishop of Nola to build a new church.
Miracles were reported and pilgrimages began to frequent the place. Hence, in 1883, when the sanctuary was completed (and would be consecrated on May 8, 1891), Bartolo Longo entrusted the architect Rispoli with the construction of the throne of the Virgin and directed an appeal to the faithful: "In this place selected for its prodigies, we wish to leave to present and future generations a monument to the Queen of Victories that will be less unworthy of her greatness but more worthy of our faith and love." Four years later saw the celebration of a threefold feast of the inauguration, the crowning, and the enthroning of the picture of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The picture, already summarily restored in 1875, was subjected in 1879 to a second and far more accurate retouching which stabilized the colors and the image. Finally, in 1965, at Rome, the cloth was renovated for a third time, at the hands of the Benedictine Monks. Moreover, before being returned to Pompeii (on April 25, 1965), the picture remained in the Vatican Basilica by express request of Paul VI.
During the homily (March 23, 1965), the Pope expressed the hope that "just as the image of the Virgin has been repaired and decorated .... so may the image of Mary that all Christians must have within themselves be restored, renovated, and enriched." At the end of the Mass, the Pope solemnly enthroned the Child and Madonna, placing on their heads two precious diadems that had been offered by the faithful.
Alongside the sanctuary of faith and Rosarian prayer, Bartolo Longo also caused to rise up in Pompeii a sanctuary of charity, with his multiple works and institutions (Orphanages, Sons of Prisoners, Daughters of Prisoners, Daughters of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii, and Dominican Tertiaries).
Most notable of all is the "Supplication to the Queen of Victories" which, begun at Pompeii on October 1883, is recited all over the world on May 8, and on the first Sunday in October.".
On October 21, 1979, John Paul II went on pilgrimage to Pompeii and gazed out from the very balcony from which Bartolo Longo (in an intuition of faith on May 5, 1901) had "seen gazing out" the white figure of the representative of Christ to bless the people calling for universal Peace."
On October 26, 1980, Bartolo Longo was beatified by John Paul II and termed the "man of the Madonna," and the "Apostle of the Rosary."
[Taken from Dictionary of Mary, Catholic Book Publishing Co., NY, 1985]