Our Lady of Revelation at Tre Fontane
4 May 2022
The month of May is dedicated to Our Lady, our Mother and Queen, and we especially recall her apparitions in Fatima. Perhaps the most significant follow-up of the message of Fatima is the all-too-little known apparition in 1947 at Tre Fontane, Rome, when Our Lady appeared under her title of “the Virgin of Revelation”. Once more, Our Lady came to urge her children to pray the Rosary every day for the conversion of sinners and, for those who remain outside, to enter the Church, which is “the divine sheepfold on earth”. This presentation was given by Fr Linus Clovis at the Rome Life Forum on 17 May 2018.
Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three children — Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta — in Fatima, Portugal. At each visit, she asked the children to pray the Rosary and to make sacrifices for sinners. In the July apparition, she entrusted the children with three secrets and promised to work a miracle in October so that all would believe. She warned that, if people did not stop offending God, He would use Russia to punish the world “by means of war, hunger and persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father”. She told the children that, “to prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart”, and promised that, by this single public act, Russia would be converted and peace would be given to the world.
True to Her word, Our Lady, appearing to Sister Lucy on 13 June 1929 at Tuy, Spain, announced: “The moment has come in which God asks the Holy Father, in union with all the bishops of the world, to make the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, promising to save it by this means.” The consecration of Russia was not to prevent the establishment of a Communist government, which had already occurred in 1917 but, rather, to prevent Russia from spreading her errors — that of a godless materialism, in particular — throughout the world.
In October, Our Lady worked the promised miracle, which was witnessed by more than seventy thousand people, including: “some of the most illustrious men of letters, in the arts and the sciences… almost all unbelievers, coming out of curiosity, led by the prediction of the seers. Even the Minister of Education of the Masonic government was there.”
The events, meticulously documented from the beginning, include eyewitness testimony of Avelino de Almeida, the Editor in Chief of O Seculo, a liberal, anti-clerical, and Masonic daily newspaper in Lisbon, who wrote of “a unique spectacle, [an] unbelievable spectacle for anyone who did not witness it. From the road … one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It resembles a dull silver disc, and it is possible to look at it without the least discomfort.”
Dr. Garrett, a professor of the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Coimbra, however, testified, “I …saw it [the sun] as a disc with a clean cut rim, luminous and shining, but which did not hurt the eyes. I do not agree with the comparison … of a dull silver disc. It was a clearer, richer, brighter colour, having something of the lustre of a pearl … I felt it to be a living body … It looked like a glazed wheel made of mother of pearl … It was a remarkable fact that one could fix one’s eyes on this brazier of light and heat without any pain in the eyes or blinding of the retina.”
De Almeida says concerning this “dance”: “The sun trembled, the sun made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people. It shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire.” Garrett adds, “The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body for it spun round upon itself, it made a whirl.” Also, “It spun like a firewheel, taking on all the colours of the rainbow … It looked like a ball of snow, revolving upon itself.” According to Ti Marto, Jacinta and Francisco’s father, “At a certain moment the sun seemed to stop and then began to move and dance … However, the sun stops, only to begin its strange dance all over again after a brief interruption, whirling upon itself, giving the impression of approaching or receding…. Then suddenly, one heard a clamour, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during these moments was terrible.”
The importance of the Fatima message is established by this unprecedented solar miracle foretold three months previously and witnessed by over seventy thousand people.
Four years prior to this, in 1913, Bruno Cornacchiola was born. His family was impoverished, his parents lukewarm Catholics, his upbringing brutal, his religious formation poor and he a non-practising Catholic.
In 1936 he married Iolanda Lo Gatto and, a few months later, left to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Falling under the influence of a German Protestant, he conceived such an intense hatred for Catholicism that he vowed to kill the pope; even buying a dagger especially for this purpose. When he returned to Rome and to his wife, who remained a practicing Catholic, in 1939, in addition to physically abusing her, he debarred her from taking the children to church and from keeping religious objects in the house. He subsequently joined the Adventist church and badgered Iolanda to join him. She agreed on condition that he first make the Nine First Friday’s devotion and that, if afterwards, he was still determined to become a Protestant, she would join him. Iolanda trusted that God would somehow convert her husband but, at the end of the nine months, he joined the Adventists and she reluctantly followed suit.
Some thirty years after Our Lady’s apparitions to three children at Fatima, on Easter Saturday, 12 April 1947, the 34 year old Bruno went with his three children – Isola aged 10, Carlo, 7 and Gianfranco, 4, – to a eucalyptus park, at Tre Fontane, near the shrine of St Paul’s martyrdom. There, in a park known for immorality, where the remains of an aborted child had been found, Bruno pored over his Bible while his children played in the shade of the eucalyptus trees. He was preparing a rant against Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven for publication the next day. When the children lost their ball, they interrupted him and, putting aside his Bible and his notes, he joined them in the search for the ball. However, at the entrance to a dark cave, Bruno found his youngest child, Gianfranco, kneeling, hands folded in prayer, his eyes fixed on a certain point of the cave and, as if addressing a living person, repeating “Beautiful lady! Beautiful lady!” Bruno became dumbfounded when Isola and Carlo fell to their knees, transfixed, also repeating “Beautiful lady!”
Suddenly and momentarily blinded by an intense light, Bruno, regained his sight and saw a woman of indescribable celestial beauty. Her head was suffused by a halo of brilliant golden light. She was wearing a radiant white dress gathered together by a rose-colored sash with a striking green mantle. At her bare feet lay a smashed crucifix on a black cloth. Her face, though at times clouded by sadness, carried an expression of motherly tenderness. In her right hand was a small grey book, which she held to her breast, where her hands were crossed. She unfolded them, pointed to the broken crucifix, and crossed them on her breast once more.
The Lady first identified herself, saying: “I am the one that is of the Divine Trinity” — that is, the daughter of the Eternal Father, spouse of the Holy Spirit and mother of the Divine Son. And secondly “I am the Virgin of Revelation”, which related to Bruno’s study of the Apocalypse. Then, addressing Bruno she said, “You persecute me – stop it now! Enter into the true fold, God’s Kingdom on earth. The Nine First Fridays of the Sacred Heart have saved you.” After revealing to Bruno the sad condition of his soul, he immediately understood that the only means of salvation was through the Catholic Church. The Virgin then said, “Pray much and recite the Rosary for the conversion of sinners, of unbelievers and of all Christians” before promising that: “In this place of sin I shall perform wonderful miracles for the conversion of unbelievers.”
The dirt from the park once known for immorality subsequently worked miracles, as Our Lady promised. Like the miraculous waters at Lourdes, it continues to work wonders for the welfare of both body and soul. It is indisputable that the many bodily cures and conversions occurring at the park are through the intercession of the Virgin of Revelation.
However, as news of the apparition spread, Bruno’s friends and associates thought him a madman, an attention seeker or an exploiter of a spiritual experience. This caused him much suffering. After police questioning and psychiatric examinations of Bruno and his children, the apparition was soon approved by Pope Pius XII, who had been forewarned of Our Lady’s visit.
On 12 April 1937, ten years before the apparition to Bruno Cornacchiola, Luigina Sinapi had arranged a pilgrimage to the Abbey at Tre Fontane for her parish group. Whilst walking through the eucalyptus wood, she found the remains of an aborted child, which she reverently buried. Quite unexpectedly, the Virgin appeared to her and said, “I will return to this place because I need the assistance of a man who persecutes the Church and wants to kill the pope. Go to St Peter’s and you will meet a lady dressed in black, who will take you to her brother, who is a cardinal. You will transmit what I have just told you to him and, in addition, tell him that he will soon become the new pope.” Luigina went to St Peter’s Basilica and met the woman, Elisabeth Pacelli, exactly as Our Lady had foretold. Elisabeth introduced Luigina to her brother, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli and delivered the Virgin’s message. He listened with a certain detachment and then responded, “If there are roses, they will bloom”. Within two years, on 2 March 1939, Cardinal Pacelli ascended the papal throne as Pope Pius XII. Bruno would meet Pius XII on 9 December 1949. At that meeting, Bruno presented the dagger on which he had written “Death to the Pope” and with which he had planned to kill him.
On 12 April 1980, the thirty-third anniversary of Our Lady’s visit, 3,000 people, including some twenty-five priests, gathered at Tre Fontane for Mass and to hear Bruno’s own account of the first apparition. Suddenly, strange images appeared in the sky above the Grotto, which interrupted the Mass. According to a Franciscan friar’s report, “The sun seemed to move through the sky towards the grotto and began to approach the earth. It could be seen with absolute ease, as a ball of fire rotating wildly, without hurting the eyes. Seemingly larger than normal, there appeared within its corona brilliant and diverse colours but mainly red, pink and black.”
It was also described as incandescent magma, moving rapidly as if boiling, and forming diverse figurations, which eyewitnesses identified as a cross, an “M”, a heart surrounded with stars, or dripping with blood; Christ’s monogram “IHS”, hands joined in prayer, the Virgin of Revelation, etc. Some also saw the solar crown divide into three circles of various colours and then rejoin. Others noted that, despite the obstruction of numerous trees, the sun bounced in plain sight, with warm vivid light almost like fire, and illumined the chapel, the trees and the faces and the clothing of the people. The phenomenon lasted about thirty minutes, after which the Mass resumed with a visibly moved congregation. Many lapsed Catholics subsequently returned to the faith and, after extensive research, a medical centre confirmed that some cures were without any medical or scientific explanation: that is, miraculous.
The solar phenomenon reoccurred on the anniversary date, 12 April, in 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989, which people observed looking directly at the sun without damaging their eyes. An interesting difference between the solar miracles of 1980 and 1982 is that the testimonies of the former were given by laypeople, whereas the clergy testified to the latter. Incidentally, Our Lady had a fourfold message for priests: they were to have a deeper conviction for the revealed truths of the faith, greater obedience to the teaching authority of the Church, a prudent vigilance in interacting with laypeople, and a pure and dignified lifestyle. The 1986 phenomenon was filmed and broadcast over Italian television. The repeated solar miracles on the anniversary date authenticate Our Lady’s message to Bruno as the October 1917 “dance of the sun” was a heavenly confirmation of the Fatima message. In fact, Bruno recorded in his diary, on June 1948, that: “the Virgin made me understand that the message of Fatima continues at Tre Fontane”.
The Tre Fontane apparition, as with other Marian apparitions, is highly symbolic and more so due to its repetition in the 1980s. The three colours — red, pink and black — are imbued with scriptural and liturgical symbolism. Red is a sign of God’s love and also symbolises the shedding of blood; hence, liturgically at votive Masses of the Lord’s Passion and of the Holy Ghost, for martyrs and at Pentecost. Pink, or rose, is the colour signifying joy, reminding us to prepare for the Lord’s imminent arrival when it is used on Gaudete Sunday. Black symbolises mourning, death and judgment and is the colour for All Souls’ Day and for Requiem Masses. Scripturally, black is associated with the threatening presence of God, with divine judgement of sin and evil, and with the Day of the Lord, which the prophet Joel described as “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Joel 2:2).
The appearance of various configurations, such as the IHS, the cross, the hearts, the “M”, symbolise the importance of the corresponding devotions, as well as a warning against ignoring — or worse, despising — them. Our Lady especially urged Bruno: “Do not forget the Rosary, which cooperates much with your salvation. The Hail Marys said with love are golden arrows to reach the Heart of Jesus”. Her own appearance within the solar crown reveals her as the Virgin of Revelation, who gives warning of the spiritual dangers we currently face.
The sun illuminating the people’s faces and clothing recalls the same phenomenon at Fatima and, as Our Lady explained to St Catherine Labouré at Rue du Bac, a symbol of the graces and virtues obtained through Her intercession. Conversely, the fact that the people were not reflecting that light with lives of faith and charity is symbolised by their being able to look at the sun with ease. According to Cornelius a Lapide’s Scripture commentary, “Sun, moon and stars are dimmed when leaders of the Church or world depart from justice and holiness to embrace depravity and wickedness.” In light of this, the repeated solar phenomenon in a Roman shrine strongly suggests that religious, rather than secular, leaders have departed from justice and holiness. In fact, Our Lady had told Bruno “many of my Son’s priests have lost the dignity of the order, no longer live in honesty, in love, no longer catechise souls … they have no faith and do not believe.”
In regard to the people, the dimming of the heavenly bodies in the Old Testament signified that the people, having violated their covenant relationship with God, are being judged. Where the dimming occurs indicated the precise covenant obligation that was collectively violated. Prostitutes used the cave at Tre Fontane until the first apparition and this was alluded to by Our Lady when she said she would work miracles with the sinful soil. Tre Fontane symbolises sins against the marriage covenant: prostitution, contraception, adultery, perversions and abortion. Further, since Bruno was composing his rant against the Virgin there, it also symbolises heresy and blasphemy. By the 1980s, when the solar miracle recommenced, these sins were widespread. Vincent Ferrer would regard the repetition of the miracle as a warning: “Heaven puts a warning in the sky when a great and heavy affliction is about to come upon the world so people may either avert the punishment through their prayers and penances or may prepare themselves to suffer affliction.”
Throughout Scripture, the cosmic order of nature and the course of the heavenly bodies are seen as essential for the ongoing welfare of the world’s existence. When men violate the spiritual and moral order, which ought to regulate the course of their lives, the cosmic order is disturbed; that is, God shows, through the disruption of the orderly movements of heavenly bodies that mankind is being judged. He alters the fixed patterns of the celestial bodies to indicate judgment on those who alter moral patterns, especially through idolatry, which is essentially to replace the Creator with a creature. Indeed, in the modern world, where each person is a law unto himself, the self has become the new idol.
Whilst the celestial sign caused wonder, Tre Fontane’s greater miracle was Bruno Cornacchiola himself. This man, a Communist, a spy, a vociferous enemy of the Church, a blaspheming heretic, an adulterer and wife-beater, a potential papal assassin, who deliberately and wholeheartedly subscribed to the errors of Russia and lived a vicious lifestyle, was saved through the Nine First Fridays devotion. This is proof that Our Lady can, in an instant, raise someone from the depths of sin and depravity to the heights of Catholic fervour and charity. It is a sign and a promise of what she could and would make of a whole nation of people dominated by those same errors and vicious lifestyle, if only mankind and the pope would heed Her request. It was a sign that, even at the height of the Cold War, Russia could have become a fervent and flame-bearing Catholic nation, ready to spread the Gospel throughout the world, had the Church hierarchy obediently complied with Heaven’s request as Bruno did to his wife’s request.
Whilst Fatima and Tre Fontane are classed as private revelation, the solar miracles are public historical events, serving as light for the current perilous times. A Jewish commentary on the story of Noah states, “the generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote marriage documents for the union of a man with a man or animal.” Our Lord compared the days of the Son of man to those of Noah. And Bruno was told: “You have the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. They did not repent, or do penance, or pray and you know what justice was done to them. ”Few today know the truth; many have their own truth. With many not only opposing God’s moral law and blatantly denying divine justice, but even ignoring Fatima with its easily verifiable historical events, backed up by great crowds of eyewitnesses, Our Lady found it necessary to come to Rome that we might believe, repent, consecrate ourselves and, living the Gospel message today, fulfil the salvific designs of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.