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 the trees around bowed down 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 literature evidence suggest that the house in the center 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 center 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 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.
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 remodeled 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.
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 (in my opinion it should be definitely in 1st position ) and therefore I highly recommend you visit Loreto and its Basilica, even if you have just a single day in Marche. You do not need to be a believer or 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, the Holy House of Loreto will be worth visiting!