Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Vergine Maria of Grace) – Grazie, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Vergine Maria of Grace)

Grazie, Italy

In this medieval church, a centuries-old stuffed crocodile hangs from the ceiling.  

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Italy has hundreds of ancient churches, but only a few feature the kind of wonder that makes Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie stand out. 

Inside the sanctuary of this church located in the Province of Mantua, visitors will find a large, taxidermied crocodile hanging from the ceiling, just beyond the main entrance. There are several other churches in the region that features crocodiles. It’s believed that many early Christians viewed animals such as crocodiles as symbols of evil. By hanging them from the ceiling, their evil intentions were no longer harmful, it was also a symbolic meaning for church-goers.   

The sides of the sanctuary are decorated with life-sized mannequins representing episodes of danger averted by divine intercession: in other words, it’s a collection of horrible ways to die. A man is being beheaded, while another is about to fall in a well and drown. 

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