The Madonna with the Three Crowns of Sarno: cult and tradition

by Roberto Iossa

We continue our religious-cultural tour on the Marian cults in the Agro-Nocerino Sarnese. It is the turn of the Maria SS. of the Three Crowns of Sarno. After analyzing the Madonna of the hens of Pagani and the Madonna dei Bagni in Scafati, she is the protagonist of our story.

Why this singular Marian iconography? Because there is the Madonna of the Three Crowns of Sarno? And why is his cult so strongly rooted in the city to the point of becoming one of the central events of the whole year?

These are questions we will try to answer. And to do this, you need to take a big step back in time. It all began in the second half of the 1700s.

The "Quadriello" of the Madonna of the Three Crowns

Tre Corone di Sarno
The "Quadriello" that depicted the Madonna of the Three Crowns of Sarno. The painting was made at the end of the 18th century by the painter Paolo De Maio at the request of the aristocrat Michele Volpicelli who then added the gold inserts.

The devotees call it "Quadriello", the votive image around which this secular cult moves. The author of the effigy was the Neapolitan painter Paolo De Maio, who left traces of his activity in various points of the Agro Nocerino-Sarnese.

In Museum dedicated to Sant'Alfonso Maria de 'Liguori located in Pagani, are kept four hand-made canvases by Paolo de Maio and by the Neapolitan saint, who among other things was also a skilled painter. If you want to deepen this story Click here!

De Maio painted the painting of the Madonna of the Three Crowns of Sarno in the 1776 at the invitation of the rich man Michele Volpicelli. According to the history handed down, De Maio considered this canvas one of his masterpieces.

During its realization, however, Volpicelli appropriated the painting, not yet completed, eager to take it to the city, causing the painter's disappointment.

It was Volpicelli himself who applied the gold inserts in the decorative parts of the effigy: the lily, the star and the triple crown.

This particular iconography (counting also the "chaplet of the Rosary" the crowns represented are actually three!) was accompanied by a series of miracles and prodigies which were attributed to the "Quadriello".

The Sanctuary of Maria Santissima delle Tre Corone in Sarno

La Madonna con le Tre Corone di Sarno: culto e tradizione
The Sanctuary of Maria Santissima delle Tre Corone in Sarno. Originally in this place was located the Chapel of Monte dei Morti, only later replaced by the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio.

And so, in the locality of Sarno where the Chapel of Monte dei Morti was originally located, then replaced by the Church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima delle Tre Corone di Sarno was erected. But when does its celebration fall?

As often happens with Marian holidays, the August 15th it is the day designated for that holy office. On this occasion we remember the processions that Volpicelli himself, who also became the mayor of the city, built along the streets of Sarno to protect it from a series of tragic events (epidemics, accidents, famines and more).

The Madonna of the Three Crowns was elevated to the rank of patron saint of the city in 1779 and from that date he created an indissoluble bond with his land and citizens, which goes beyond faith.

On the other hand, this is a characteristic feature of Agro Nocerino Sarnese: a territory rich in folklore which, in certain moments and in certain points, still manages to manifest its original and centuries-old identity.

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