The Sacred Mount of Oropa - part I

A journey into a sacred landscape made of art, sculpture and nature - Part I

By Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

View of Oropa SanctuarySantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Oropa Sanctuary and Sacred Mount

Oropa Sacred Mount, part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, is made of 12 chapels built at the west side of the Sanctuary. The mountain is the natural stage for a religious experience mediated by architecture, sculpture and the visual arts: the connecting point between Heaven and Earth.

Oropa, Theatrum Sabaudiae (1684)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The Sacred Mounts are an artistic phenomenon mainly found in Piedmont and Lombardy. Oropa Sacred Mount was built between 1620 - 1720 and it's inspired by the story of life of Virgin Mary

View of Oropa Sacro Monte (1620/1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The disposition of the chapels and the trees guides the visitors in the path of a sacred landscape. Inside each chapel, terracotta statues represent the story of life of Virgin Mary

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (1620/1720) by Arch. Francesco ContiSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Immaculate Conception

The first chapel was built thanks to the economic support of a number of quarters of the city of Biella

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (1620/1720) by Sculptor: Melchiorre D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

A large twisting dragon is placed among Mary’s parents: St. Joachim and St. Anne. It represents the original sin from which Mary is rendered immune after the sacrifice of Christ in the Passion

The dramatic visual impact which the figure must have engendered on the first visitors is easily imaginable

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (1620/1720) by Sculptor: Melchiorre D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descending on Mary as an infant. Two angels are holding a cross and a column, surmounted by a cock, both symbols of the Passion of Christ

Chapel of the Nativity of Mary (1620/1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Nativity of Mary

The second chapel was made with the economic support of the Community of Bioglio

Chapel of the Nativity of Mary (1620/1720) by Sculptors: F. Sala di Como, C. A. Serra di Tollegno, P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The scene depicts an episode of childbirth within domestic walls. St. Anne is portrayed bedridden and assisted by two women.In the foreground a woman is showing baby Mary to her father, St. Joachim.

Chapel of the Nativity of Mary (1620/1720) by Sculptors: F. Sala di Como, C. A. Serra di Tollegno, P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The majestic triumph of the angels, composed by over a hundred statues, dominates the scene

Chapel of the Nativity of Mary (1620/1720) by Sculptors: F. Sala di Como, C. A. Serra di Tollegno, P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Triumph of the angels

Chapel of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (1620/1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Presentation of Mary into the Temple

The third chapel was commissioned by the Community of Mongrando

Chapel of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (1620/1720) by Sculptors: Pietro Giuseppe Auregio, Carlo Francesco Auregio.Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The young Virgin Mary seems eagerly and yet somehow fearfully mounting the stairs towards the old stately priest, who welcomes her beyond the balustrade

Mary's parents, who had been childless, received a heavenly message that they would have a child.In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, they brought her to the Temple to consecrate her to God

Chapel of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (1620/1720) by Sculptors: Pietro Giuseppe Auregio, Carlo Francesco Auregio.Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

A young mother holds her baby

Chapel of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (1620/1720) by Sculptors: Pietro Giuseppe Auregio, Carlo Francesco Auregio.Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Characters of the Temple

Chapel of Mary in the Temple (1662/1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Mary into the Temple

The 4th Chapel was commissioned by the Community of Pralungo. For the first time the statues and the paintings have been restored in this chapel

Chapel of Mary in the Temple (1662/1720) by Sculptor: P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The scene depicts a group of maidens in the Temple of Jerusalem, reading or tending to domestic chores under the watch of their teacher

Chapel of Mary in the Temple (1662/1720) by Sculptor: P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The Madonna seated at work is surrounded by graceful cherubs

Chapel of Mary in the Temple (1662/1720) by Sculptor: P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Fight between two maidens in the right apse

Chapel of Mary in the Temple (1662/1720) by Sculptor: P.G. Auregio. Painter: G. GalliariSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Triumph of angels. The painter Galliari attempted to dilate the space of the apses by inserting architectural prospectives and trompe l'oeil

Chapel of Wedding of Mary (1620/1720)Santuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The Wedding of Mary

The 5th chapel was built with the economic support of the Community Chiavazza, Ronco, Zumaglia

Chapel of Wedding of Maria Santissima (1620/1720) by Sculptor: G. D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The scene depicts the Marriage of the Virgin Mary according to the Protoevangelium of James. The chosen bride would be indicated by the flowering of one of the rods held by each suitor

Chapel of Wedding of Maria Santissima (1620/1720) by Sculptor: G. D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Joseph’s rivals are breaking their rod

Chapel of Wedding of Maria Santissima (1620/1720) by Sculptor: G. D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

A group of women at the wedding

Chapel of Wedding of Maria Santissima (1620/1720) by Sculptor: G. D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

The priest marries Mary and St. Joseph

Chapel of Wedding of Maria Santissima (1620/1720) by Sculptor: G. D'EnricoSantuario e Sacro Monte di Oropa

Decorations on the vault

Credits: Story

Photo: Luciano Tarricone, Claudio Argentiero, Fabrizio Lava, Angelo Tracanna

Bibliography: Paolo Strobino, Guida alle Cappelle del Sacro Monte di Oropa

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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