In the heart of Marche, in the borders between the provinces of Ancona and Macerata, proudly stands one of the 3 most visited cathedrals in Italy. Let's find out what makes it so special!

Did you know….

that in the heart of Marche, in the borders between the provinces of Ancona and Macerata, there is a town called Loreto, which each year attracts more than 4 million visitors? What makes this borough of 12 thousand residents so special? Is it its strategic position on top of a hill, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, or the stunning views towards Monte Conero (the heart of the Conero Riviera) that attract so many people from all Italy and beyond? Let's find out!

Indeed, on top of the Loreto's hills proudly stands one of the 3 most visited cathedrals in Italy. It is undoubtedly large and beautiful but why is it so popular? Is it its magnificence, its size or maybe the art inside it that has such an important role to all Catholics and Christian believers? These certainly aren’t the only reasons.

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One thing is sure: the Basilica of Loreto is above all unique! For in its centre lays down the Holy House of the Virgin Mary - the house in Nazareth that she inhabited before the birth of the God’s Son, where she conceived and raised Jesus in his early years! The one and only Holy House! Check accommodations in Le Marche

Although it is now obvious why the Basilica of Loreto has such an importance for the Catholic World should we limit ourselves to just one fact, myth or believe? What is sure is that this holy place shakes you from within, makes you feel its power and really connects you with God. Standing inside that tiny dark three-walled brick room with some frescoes still preserved in the upper parts while facing the statue of the Black Madonna, praying comes out naturally and nothing else matters... 

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You may be curious how the Holy House from Nazareth is today located on the Adriatic coast of Italy? There are a few versions explaining the mystery, the most popular being a 14th-century legend and a more scientific explanation.

According to the legend, after the Crusaders left the Holy Land and it came under the control of Muslims in 1263, the Holy House of the Virgin Mary was transported by angels to a place known as Croatia today, during 1291. It was found by a shepherd who was revealed in a vision by Mary herself to be her house. It was in that period when the Holy house had disappeared from Nazareth.

It was then again transported by the angels in 1294,  to the other part of the Adriatic Sea, to Recanati and finally, one year after, in 1295, it found its final position into a laurel grove, called the ‘Lauretanum,’ from where the name of Loreto comes from. The legend also says that when the Virgin’s House was lowered by the angels the trees around bowed in respect.

The scientific research, however, insists that the transportation of the Holy House was done by sea and was not flown by angels. Moreover, monks and crusaders were often referred to as ‘angels’ by the common people during the medieval period thus explaining the myth of ‘angels’ transporting the Holy House from Nazareth to Loreto on their wings. Indeed, after centuries of research, in 1962 archaeological and literary evidence suggests that the house in the centre of the Basilica of Loreto may actually originate from the lands of Nazareth for its limestone and cedar construction materials are typical for that land and period and are not to be found in Marche.

The Holy House, located in the centre of the Basilica today, is quite small, consisting of a single room. The original House had three walls with the fourth being open towards the entrance of the grotto where today stands the altar with a statue of a Black Madonna. Two different parts can be identified in the construction of the  Santa Casa: the original wall, about 3 meters high, built in a regular row and with limestone blocks found in Palestine and a newer upper section built with Marche local bricks. There are six graffiti, similar to those found in the Holy Land, belonging to ancient periods. Check holiday homes and apartments nearby

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Almost two centuries after the appearance of the Holy House in Loreto, in 1469, a large Basilica was built around it. It has been reconstructed and remodelled several times over the centuries and today it has a Renaissance exterior and a Gothic interior. Soon after the construction of the Basilica, it became very popular in Italy, and by the 16th century, it was visited by pilgrims from all over Europe.

Inside the Basilica, exactly below the Dome, there is a huge marble concourse, surrounding the Holy House. The Marble Screen, representing Bible scenes, together with a scene representing the legend of the angels flying the house, was assigned by Julius II, who, in 1507, sent Donato Bramante to Loreto to do "great things" there and to "draw many works". There are two obvious paths formed in the hard stone concourse, left by the millions of pilgrims who would circumnavigate the Holy shrine on their knees. 

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The Virgin of Loreto is considered the patron saint of pilots, emigrants, and expectant mothers. Each year, on December 10, pilgrims and citizens celebrate the arrival of the Holy House in Loreto.  The little town has become one of the most popular places in Marche throughout the centuries and undoubtedly a must-visited site for all the Christian pilgrims worldwide.

Today the Sanctuary of the Holy House is site No 2, according to TripAdvisor and certainly a must-visit place, no matter for how long you happen to be in Le Marche or in what part of the region you are staying. You do not need to be a believer, Catholic or even a Christian in order to appreciate the magnificence and uniqueness of this place. No matter if you are simply an art lover or a curious tourist who would like to expand his culture and see such a marvellous place, the Holy House of Loreto will be worth visiting!

Our personal tip? Plan a proper visit of the area, rent a holiday home anywhere in Le Marche or choose one in the central part of the region and combine your not-to-be-missed visit of Loreto and its Cathedral to a few days in the Conero RiveRiviera, a visit to the fisherman village of Porto Recanati and why not to the many outlets of famous Italian brands in the vicinities...

The options are many, start planning your visit to this unique place today! Check holiday homes and apartments nearby

References:

Personal visits 2011-2018, Holy House of Loreto, The Holy House of Loreto, Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto

Photo sources: Lovely Ancona, Loreto turismo, La Fede Quotidiana, Destinazione Marche, Corriere proposte, Santuario di Loreto.

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