February 4, 2002 - Symbol of Faith

On the River Road, not far north of Nottoway, stands a 99-year-old symbol of faith. This Iberville Parish landmark has a place in the history books.

The origin of the Chapel of the Madonna goes back to the turn of the century, when the oldest son of sugar farmer Anthony Gullo was taken sick. Gullo prayed to the Virgin Mary, said if his son was healed, the Italian farmer would build a shrine. The boy recovered, and Tony Gullo was as good as his word to the Blessed Mother.

He built his church on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1903. It measures nine feet square and is said to be the smallest church in the world. The key is always in the mailbox, and the church is open to anyone, anytime.

Inside the tiny chapel stands the original statue of the Madonna imported from Italy by Tony Gullo nearly a century ago. The Gullo family moved away about 50 years ago, but local folks have maintained the church.

About five years ago, Tony's great-great grandson, now living in Illinois, donated a new steeple. Mass is said at the Chapel of the Madonna each August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption. And the answer to a farmer's prayer has been a beacon of faith for nearly 100 years in Bayou Goula.

The Chapel of the Madonna has been moved at least twice in the last 99 years due to flood waters and the building of the Mississippi River levee. But it stands very close to Gullo's original site.