Holy House_ Story

The Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto is located in the region Marche, at a short distance from the beach of Porto Recanati. The Holy House is hosted in the Basilica, which was built between 1469 and 1587 and is the heart of the Sanctuary.

It consists of three walls which - according to the ancient and authoritative tradition - would be the walls in front of the Cave of Nazareth where the Blessed Virgin Mary was born, lived and received the Annunciation. The devout tradition tells that the Holy House was translated by the Angels from Nazareth to Loreto.

A second historical interpretation tells that in 1291, the crusaders were expelled from the Holy Land by the Muslims and that some Christians saved the house of the Virgin from destruction. First, they brought it to a village in Illyria where the Shrine of Our Lady of Trsat was later built in memory of this appearance. Later, in the night between 9 and 10 December 1294, it was transported to the ancient municipality of Recanati: first at the port, then on a hill in a public street, where it is still hosted today.

Both the authoritative tradition and archaeological and philological studies agree that this transportation was possible thanks to the help of "Heaven", an "angelic" intervention.

According to archaeological excavations, the three walls of the Holy House fit perfectly with the perimeter of the Grotto of Nazareth, that is the remaining part of the house of Mary. Furthermore, the stones with which it is built do not come from the Recanatese territory, but are typical of the Palestinian building tradition at the time of Christ. This testifies to the authenticity of the relic.

The city of Loreto has been flourishing since the Holy House arrival. Earlier, there was nothing on this hill. The distinguished relic attracted many pilgrims, looking for grace and blessings. Sick pilgrims were the first to be carried at the Holy House, asking for their bodies and spirits to be healed.

The devotion to the Holy House spread first in the Marche territories, then beyond the border, up to the whole Catholic world. There are many places dedicated to the Virgin of Loreto, and many are real reproductions of the Holy House, some with with marble cladding. For example, in Europe, one is located in Prague while in Asia one is Taiwan.

In addition to the three original walls, a fourth was built in Loreto where we can see the sacred image of the Virgin of Loreto. The statue that can be admired today is from 1922, as the previous one was lost in a fire which broke out in the Holy House in 1921. The Virgin of Loreto was proclaimed the universal patroness of all air travelers by Benedict XV on 24 March 1920. In 2020, centenary of the Sanctuary and year of the Lauretan Jubilee granted by Pope Francis, we remembered this special bond between the Virgin of Loreto and all civil and military aviation.

In Holy House Mary was born and lived as a woman, a wife and a mother: this is why it represents a home for every family that there finds support, comfort and hope in difficulties between those three walls. Within those walls Mary said her Yes to God, a strong and courageous Yes, which is an example of life for the pilgrim: the ability to say yes when being called, both to marriage, to consecration or even of social commitment and for the common good.

The Basilica and Apostolic Palace

The basilica, begun in 1469 and sponsored by Paul II, represents the work of various artists that gave itt the appearance that is visible today to the pilgrim. The apses are the work of Giuliano da Maiano, while Baccio Pontelli built the walkways, giving the sanctuary the appearance of a fortress. Giuliano da Sangallo created the dome in Brunelleschi's style and Donato Bramante worked on various modifications and consolidations. The basilica was completed in 1587 with the construction of the façade in late Florence Renaissance style by three architects: Giovanni Boccalini, Giovan Battista Ghioldi and Lattanzio Ventura. It consists of a hemicycle and 13 late Gothic apse chapels of Florentine derivation, called chapels of the nations.

In the dome, decorated with frescoes by Cesare Maccari, we can recognize the cycle of the Litany of Loreto, the Holy Trinity surrounded by the Thrones, Cherubim Dominations, Serafini, Powers, Principalities, the archangels Michele Raffaele and Gabriele and the invocations to Mary as Queen. The bronze doors forged in the Recanati foundry in 1600, representing episodes from the history of salvation, close the exterior of the basilica.

The apostolic palace was designed by Donato Bramante. The works were directed by Sansovino, then by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and in the sixteenth century by Giovanni Boccalini. It was finished by Luigi Vanvitelli to whom we owe also the elegant bell tower.

 (taken from The Holy House of Loreto by Padre Giuseppe Santarelli)

Translation by Giulia Bogotto

Living the Holy House with the words of Pope Francis