The Sanctuary is set on the old city’s ruins, on a promontory dropping sheer into the sea. The original church was destroyed by Algerian pirates in 1544 and then reconstructed. In 1979 a new and larger church was built on the site. It houses the much-revered statue of the Virgin and Child in citron wood known as Black Madonna. A few legends attached to this sculpture such as that it was brought from the Middle East to protect Sicily during the Iconoclastic Wars in the 8th century. At the base of the statue there is the inscription “Nigra sum sed formosa” that means “I am black but beautiful”. Most probably it comes from the Old Testament’s Song of Songs. Many miracles have been attributed to the statue over the centuries such as the lagoon. It is said that a mother come to visit the sanctuary and refused to pray to the Madonna because she was black. When the woman’s baby slipped from her grasp into the sea below, the Madonna made parts of the land rise to save the baby and the lagoon was born.