The Theft

On the night between 13 and 14 October 1983, unknown persons desecrated the icon of the Madonna di Capo Colonna, a symbol of the faith and religious tradition of Crotone, stealing the jewels which it was adorned with. I was asked to restore the painting to its original beauty. A great honor, but a responsibility that shakes veins and wrists.

The people of Crotone, the many devotees who, every year, from all over the region reach the city to renew the deep bond that unites them to the Virgin, had an indignant reaction. As Antonella Cosentino wrote in a work published by the weekly “il Crotonese”, “… it was the people who felt plundered, mortified, deprived. And it was not the icon that asked for new decorations. It was a whole community that felt the need to fill the deprivation.

Embellishing the icon again had the full meaning of devotion. Covering it with gems and gold was a need and commitment … “. The bishop of Crotone-Santa Severina, Mons. Giuseppe Agostino, unforgotten guide of the diocese, entrusted me with the task of creating the new ornament of the sacred image. I remember the presentation of the work. I was afraid of disappointing our bishop’s expectations. He had beautiful words indeed: “Dear beloved son, you have passed this test with intelligence, sensitivity, devotion. We will be grateful to you forever”.

It happened two days before that the restored icon appeared in public, on May 12, 1986. An indescribable emotion involved the thousands of people who arrived in Crotone from all over Calabria, many of them, on their knees, prayed before the Virgin. I have never heard such loud applause, like the one that accompanied the exit of the sacred image from the church and its journey through the streets of the city.

The director of Gioia , Silvana Giacobini, among several guests, took part in the ceremony, dedicating the poster of the weekly magazine to the event, distributed for the occasion with a giant picture of the Madonna.

The beauty of that moment was so high that I was even able to forget the incredible situation which I had found myself in only a few hours earlier, risking a sensational flop, which would have irreparably compromised my artistic reputation. Although I had passed Bishop Augustine’s assessment with flying colors, I did not feel satisfied. I kept repeating that I should have improved the work, but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t sleep. At two o’clock in the morning I went down to the laboratory and sat down in front of the icon of the Virgin.

At a certain point, I took the shears and started cutting. In a few minutes, I canceled months of job. I was desperate. I felt a stabbing pain in my chest that made me scary for life. However, I suddenly had a shock. Everything seemed clear to me. I worked until the first light of dawn, meticulously preparing each piece, in order to allow my collaborators, who would arrive shortly thereafter, to quickly assemble the material.

When they realized what happened they were speechless. They looked at me thinking I was crazy. I succeeded in my intent instead. And in due time… For the realization of the new frame, which wrapped the icon of the Virgin, I used seven and a half kilos of silver; for the halo, by the way, 38 large sapphires, 39 pearls, 175 diamonds and 144 cultured pearls, resting on gold.

The work was further enriched a few years later. Instead of the old crown, adapted to the Baby Jesus, I placed twelve white gold stars with diamonds set in pave: a number that is not random, since in the biblical tradition they represent the ornament of the woman, but also recall the apostles, gathered around Mary, to receive the Holy Spirit.

Freely based on the book “I’m Nobody! My long journey between art and life. Gerardo Sacco, conversation with Francesco Kostner”