The "Ex Voto"

See the tablets with commemorative paintings of graces and miracles.

By Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The plague in Biella in 1522 (1512/1583) by Bernardino LaninoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The first ex voto

In 1522 Bernardino Lanino painted the first ex voto given to the Sanctuary of the city of Biella. Before this date, in Oropa, it was not customary to offer tablets with commemorative paintings of graces and miracles. Since the fifteenth century, however, there was the custom of offering votive gifts, such as wax images, gold, silver and jewelery that were periodically switched to money for the needs of the Sanctuary.

Two sick in bed (1700/1800)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

In this context it is rare to find a painting. The painting documents daily life and does not represent a trivial religious witness.

Giovanni Battista Peron (1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

It was much easier for a man to deprive himself of a ring or a precious object than to tell a painter his personal story. In fact, these lives are often linked to misfortunes, which had to be told publicly and painted.

deathbed (1735)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

it is not an anonymous gift. the donor exposes his own image and his existential story on the painting. In this way he makes himself recognized as pardoned before God and men. The ancient votive tablets (today they are exhibited inside the Museum, in the gallery of the Treasure and in the Manica Juvarriana) were initially hung inside the Sacello and in the walls of the Basilica. At the end of the nineteenth century it was full of paintings

Nobleman pleading (1600)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Two elements essentially make up the votive paintings: A human reality that needs salvation, and a heavenly epiphany that intervenes to save it.

The representation of human reality is necessary to narrate the grace received. In the face of difficulty, man asks for help from the Black Madonna of Oropa

who appears as saving from the sky and wrapped in light. Light is a symbol of transcendence and a vehicle of union between the terrestrial world and the celestial sphere.

Ex voto C.T (1741) (1741) by Biella areaSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The meager composition is often limited to a few elements which in their essentiality acquire eloquence and relief. As in the case of this table "Ex.voto.C.T." of 1741.

On the right, the sick woman sitting on a large straw bed with a red blanket in the bare room.

Portrait of Carlo Emanuele Nicolao in swaddling clothes (1673) by Lupo Giovanni BattistaSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The artists, often anonymous, show great attention for a certain realism. The painting is not necessarily of great artistic value, but an important testimony of daily life, the history of furnishing, customs and domestic devotion.

Siege of Magonza (1875) by Maffei GiuseppeSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The paintings, dating back to different eras, range from the representation of war scenes...

Ex voto of G.B Carpano (1678) by Piedmont areaSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

...accidents at work, serious illnesses, motor vehicle accidents, which testify to the evolution of the customs of the whole society.

The return of the soldier (1813)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

In this ex-voto of 1813 the crowned Madonna of Oropa dominates the center of the table.

The table is organized in a triangular structure. The Madonna emerges from big white clouds. In the lower part of the painting there are other dark clouds that seem to loom like a threat on the two characters.

On the left a serious young man but in prayer with joined hands. The uniform is that of the Napoleonic period.

On the right a strutting but pleading man is turned to the Madonna. This is the classic theme of the "return of the soldier" present in many ex votos and frequent paintings in Oropa even in the following century.

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