A year or so later, while in the Church of SS. Salvatore in the city of Pompeii (outside where the ruins are), he had a mystical experience. There he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who spoke to him saying "Se propaghi il Rosario, sarai salvo!" ("If you propagate the rosary, you will be saved!") At this point he saw clearly his mission: to spread the devotion of the Rosary.
He eventually founded a Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. As part of that activity, he wanted an image for the new Confraternity. So, he acquired an icon of the Blessed Virgin giving the rosary to Sts. Dominic and Catherine of Siena. That image was given to him by a Dominican nun, who had purchased it in a junk shop in Naples. Longo himself was not too found of the image, which he described in his journal this way:
Not only was it worm-eaten, but the face of the Madonna was that of a coarse, rough country-woman ... a piece of canvas was missing just above her head ... her mantle was cracked. Nothing need be said of the hideousness of the other figures. St. Dominic looked like a street idiot. To Our Lady's left was a St. Rose. This I had changed later into a St. Catherine of Siena ... I hesitated whether to refuse the gift or to accept ... I took it.The image was restored a number of times, and come to be known simply as Our Lady of Pompeii.
Eventually, at the urging of his Bishop, Longo built a new church, a shrine dedicated to the Rosary. Soon after, miracles began being reported, particularly with the icon of Our Lady of Pompeii. A larger church was built, and enlarged again after Longo's death. That church is now known officially as the Pontifical Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy rosary of Pompeii, or as it is better known, simply the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii.
Bartolo Longo was beatified by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The Shrine is located just outside the archaeological site at Pompeii, and is worth a visit. While we were there, an Italian Bishop was visiting with some Capuchin friars in tow, and we were able to pray the Rosary with them. Unfortunately, the main sanctuary was under construction during our visit, but here are a few pictures: