The Golden Madonna

Don Donato led us to the main altar where the Madonna of Tony’s weathered postcard held court over the masses. Here she was in all her glory: the santissima (very saintly) Madonna del Carmine.

And beneath her, slightly hidden behind massive gleaming candlesticks, was the plaque that announced to the parishioners every day that a member of the Del Pozzo family had made her glory possible.

Don Donato instructed Andrea to stand upon the altar (we winced, hoping nothing would topple) and move the candlesticks so that we would have an unobstructed view of the plaque. Cameras clicked and whirred, then we stood silent, just staring at it.

A poignant homecoming for Chris, Tony, and Nichole Del Pozzo

The church was anything but modest. Generous donations from both local parishioners and distant benefactors have provided for an extensive modernization of the infrastructure.  (Later, Don Donato marched us down to the basement to proudly show off the new air conditioning and heating system.) Additionally, donated dollars have not only repaired structural damage caused by earthquakes, but have created a splendorous interior.

Leaning our heads way back, we followed Don Donato’s unwavering finger directing our gaze upwards as he patiently explained the symbolism of the elaborate frescoed murals and architectural detail slathered over every inch of ceiling.

No, Sharon isn't napping on a pew. She's snapping a photo of the ceiling.

Don Donato then led us around the interior perimeter of the church, into each and every nave, telling us the names and stories of the wooden saints that stood in the niches. It didn’t seem to matter that he only spoke Italian. Somehow we understood most everything he described.

And then we came to another surprise.

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