Mary has a long relationship with athletes needing help, and many sports have favorite Marian shrines. Cyclists have Our Lady of Ghisallo, sometimes called Our Lady of the Bicycle, or Our Lady of Cyclists. It’s an old roadside shrine which stands along the route of the Giro di Lombardia. The small chapel was built by a medieval man who was saved from bandits by Mary’s protection.
Our Lady of Ghisallo’s image is a painting of Mary, with Christ as a baby or toddler seated on her knee; He blesses the onlooker while she bends toward him, nursing him. But there’s a common variation on prayer cards where Mary is not nursing Him, but lifting toddler Jesus onto a bicycle seat! Medals of Our Lady of Ghisallo or the “Madonna del Ghisallo” are pretty common, too.
Our Lady of Ghisallo’s patronage of cyclists was made official by Pope Pius XII in 1949. The relevant feasts are October 13 and November 2 (because a lot of people go there to pray for dead cyclists’ souls).
A post about the place with a nice picture, from a cycling blog. Did you know that Cadel Evans donated his Tour de France yellow jersey to the chapel? No, me neither.
Here’s a bigger article about the place, with some amazing pictures.
Other bicycle shrines include Notre-Dame des Cyclistes in Labastide-d’Armagnac, in the Aquitaine in France; and Nuestra Señora de Dorleta in Leintz Gatzaga, Spain. (Also spelled Lentz and Leniz.)
Notre-Dame des Cyclistes is an old Templar chapel. Pretty cool. It was approved as the French national shrine for cyclists by Pope John XXIII, in 1959.
This blog article talks about Spanish cyclists’ devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption of Dorleta, as well as the shrine itself.
The post also includes a more generic Spanish devotional statue, Our Lady of Sports (Nuesta Señora de Deporte), aka the Virgin of Athletes (La Virgen de los Deportistas) which features Toddler Jesus standing on an Olympic podium, and Mary with a gold medal around her neck. I have to say, it makes me smile and cry.
“Do you not know that everyone runs in the race? Indeed, they all run, but one wins the prize. So run so that you can get it.
“And everyone who strives to win, stops doing anything else — and they do it for a crown that withers, but we for an incorruptible one!
“So I run, but not as one without a finish line, and I box, but not like one pounding the air. I drill my body, and bring it under control.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
“Forgetting what lies behind, and leaning forward toward what is before me, I head for the finish line, for the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)
“And therefore, having so great a cloud of witnesses around us, let us lay aside every burden and throw off every sin prone to entangle us; and with endurance, let us run the race set before us.” (Hebr. 12:1)
The post also includes a prayer to Our Lady of Sports. Here’s part of it:
“Our Lady and Mother,
we place in your hands all the efforts made by all the world’s athletes,
so that we can win a ‘crown that withers.’
May our physical efforts be a part of our search for higher virtues,
that forge character and give dignity and meaning to our lives.
As disciples of Our Teacher, Jesus Christ,
life itself is a competition,
and a striving for goodness and holiness.
Intercede before Him for all of us.
May all our work, sacrifice, and worry
culminate for us and for our families
in being filled to the brim with His love, His joy, and His peace.