It might sound strange, but it’s true. Medieval Catholics associated animals like crocodiles with temptation, sin, and Satan.
Churchgoers would symbolically hang crocodiles and snakes from the ceiling to ward off these evil intentions and encourage the Faithful to remain so.
While few examples of this practice exist today, in the Santuario Reale della Beata Vergine delle Grazie, The Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace, you will find a taxidermied crocodile – yes, an embalmed crocodile – hanging from the ceiling.
Not much is known how the crocodile got there, but one pious legend tells of two fisherman brothers, one of which attacked by the crocodile while resting on the shore of a river.
The other brother, prayed for divine intercession and was armed with a knife, managing to kill the beast and save his brother.
Now, on the sides of the neoclassical church in Grazi, Italy are scenes with small human statues in various dangerous situations being saved from death by divine intervention.
But what is perhaps even more interesting about the sanctuary that’s over a millennium old? Sacred chalk drawings.
“Central to the history and life of the Sanctuary is the Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15th. From the early morning the streets of the village are invaded by a multitude of pilgrims, and later by the visitors of a traditional trade fair, which has reached an international fame for over thirty years thanks to the presence of the “madonnari” who with their coloured crayons change the asphalt into a phantasmagorical carpet, reproducting famous paintings of sacred subject.”