The terrifying news that the soldiers of Sigismund of Luxembourg were attacking the castle was not wholly unexpected, because it was clear to all that their emperor wished to travel to Rome in order to be crowned by the Pope. The volunteers from Ampezzo and San Vito di Cadore, a territory which at that time also comprised Selva di Cadore, Borca di Cadore, Vodo di Cadore, Peaio di Cadore and Vinigo di Cadore, arrived and fought courageously. But they were inferior both numerically and in military training. Before surrendering, they appealed to the Madonna, who performed a miracle. What did she do? No-one knows. But what is certain is that the invaders retreated, taking some prisoners with them! But the towns had been spared, and likewise the women and children. As soon as they could, the Confraternity of the Flagellants of Saint Vito di Cadore began work to fulfil the oath. And so they completed the part of the chapel which now forms the apse of the Madonna della Difesa church.
It is a jewel of perfection, entirely clad in frescoes. Under the vaults, scenes from the life of the Virgin; on the right-hand wall, saints Lucy, Roch and Sebastian; on the opposite wall, a large-scale composition with, at the centre, two groups of cavalry soldiers, in a procession for a tournament. Some of them have already been knocked out of their saddles; above, saint Vito in red gown, and saint Florian in the guise of a fireman. In the shadows, you can glimpse the profile of the castles of Pieve di Cadore and Podestagno. At the top, the Madonna carrying the Child in her arms and a sword in her hand completes the scene. The artist is unknown; but the composition has been dated to the early decades of the 15th century by art historian Philippe Daverio, when he visited it in 2014.
On the high altar there is a glowing triptych by Francesco Vecellio, Titian’s brother (1475-1560), with a smiling Madonna, the young Jesus, naked to symbolise a new Adam, with saints Hermagoras and Anthony the Abbot on the two sides.