The Santuario Regina Montis Regalis is more commonly referred to today as the Santuario di Vicoforte. The story of the Santuario begins in 1592 when a young local man named Giulio Sargiano went hunting for game and accidentally shot a small roadside shrine containing a fresco of the Madonna and Child. Legend has it that upon seeing the damage he caused, Sargiano was filled with grief and saw blood flowing from the wounded fresco. The remorseful hunter surrendered his firearm and began to collect money to make repairs. Soon, word of the shrine spread and pilgrims seeking to have their prayers answered began arriving in great numbers and from far away.
Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoia, first heard of the mass popularity of the shrine at Vicoforte from his wife, Duchess Caterina of Spain. In 1596 he commissioned his court architect, Ascanio Vittozzi, to construct an aqueduct and road from Mondovì Piazza to Vicoforte in order to accommodate the multitude of pilgrims arriving every day. The entire project was to include a grand sanctuary for the shrine and as well as a mausoleum for the Duke and his family. Vitozzi died in 1610 before the project was completed and by the time of the Duke’s death in 1630, the structure stood unfinished and without a roof.
Construction resumed in the early eighteenth century under the direction of Francesco Gallo, a prolific architect from Mondovì who designed more than 80 important works in Cuneo Province. Gallo designed the Santuario’s magnificent cupola, which remains to be the largest oval dome in the world. When work was completed in 1728, Gallo allegedly removed the scaffolding himself to prove that the structure would be able to stand on its own. A fresco in the Piemontese baroque style entitled The Glorification of the Madonna was painted on the dome’s interior in 1752 by artists Mattia Bortoloni and Felice Biella.
According to his wishes, the body of Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoia, and that of his daughter, the Duchess Margherita, remain at rest in the Santuario di Vicoforte. The firearm used by Giulio Sargiano in 1592 is still on display near the fresco of Madonna and Child.