Sacro Monte of Varallo is the oldest of the Sacred Mountains in Piedmont and Lombardy,
and the only one to maintain two closely related characteristics: the “urban aspect”, with the historical walling and the two terminal squares, the square of the Tribunals and the square of the Basilica, and the evocative processional itinerary through the greenery, almost like a long rural Via Crucis winding around the hill.
The Sacro Monte at Varallo contains a basilica and about 45 chapels, dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The first chapels were constructed very simply, sometimes making use of natural “architecture” such as caves and rural constructions which recaptured the architectural culture of Valsesia in the architectural models and materials used. There is evidence of the ancient Complex of Nazareth (chapels 2, 3, 4), the chapel of the Temptation of Christ (chapel 13) and the oldest unit of the Complex of Bethlehem (chapels 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) which echo the appearance of the little mountain churches with their bell-towers and loggias in the traditional style.
From the early 1500s, Gaudenzio Ferrari worked at Sacro Monte in the role of protagonist, painter, sculptor and architectand was instrumental in the development of the project by Father Caimi. It was Gaudenzio who gave an increasingly important role to the holy scene in the chapel interiors and organised the narrative in such a manner that the real-size sculptures told the main story whilst the characters painted on the walls gave support and a sense of completenes.
Sacro Monte was radically altered during the 1560s upon the initiative of Giacomo d’Adda, a wealthy Milanese financier, married to the last descendant of the noble Scarognini family from Varallo, who had financed the first chapels of Sacro Monte.
From 1593 to 1615 the Bishop of Novara, Carlo Bascapè, guided a new transformation of the religious complex and, also making use of the instructions given by Saint Charles, he transformed it into an itinerary designed to illustrate the life of Christ in a clear and unequivocal manner to pilgrims, subjecting the religious content to a rigid control according to the stipulations of the Council of Trento.
Bascapè’s instructions remained the determining force during the following decades during which artists from many different areas worked at Sacro Monte.
http://www.sacromontevarallo.eu Opening times Monday-Sunday 09.00-16.00