Judging from mayhem on the roads — in which cyclists are inevitably the losers in encounters with cars and trucks — the two-wheeled brotherhood and sisterhood could use a heavenly guardian.
It turns out, actually, that they have one: Our Lady of Ghisallo.
A chapel to Our Lady of Ghisallo is perched atop a steep hill in the small town of Magréglio, near Lake Como in northern Italy. Cyclists who climb the hill usually stop at the chapel to perhaps offer a prayer to other cyclists in peril on the roads and to visit the chapel’s collection of cycling memorabilia: pennants from cycling clubs around the world, jerseys of cycling champions and a selection of bikes whose riders made history.
According to a legend dating to medieval times, a local nobleman named Count Ghisallo was traveling near the village of Magréglio when he was set upon by highwaymen. He fled to an apparition of the Virgin Mary, pleaded for protection and was miraculously saved, the legend says.
Over the years, the Madonna del Ghisallo became known as the patroness of local travelers. In more recent times, cyclists would often stop to rest at the chapel after the grueling climb.
An eternal flame at the chapel burns in memory of deceased cyclists, and they are commemorated with services on Christmas Eve and the Feast of All Souls on Nov. 2.
One of the worst examples of carnage on the roads involving cyclists occurred Dec. 5 at the opposite end of Italy from the shrine.
Eight cyclists were killed on a two-lane road near Lamezia Terme, in the Calabria region in the “toe” of Italy.
Police reports said that a speeding car driven by a man whose license had been revoked because of dangerous driving and who had been smoking marijuana plowed head-on into a group of cyclists affiliated with a local gym in Lamezia Terme. Besides the eight killed, four cyclists were injured.
Maybe the Madonna had the day off.