Sacro Monte di Varallo
Visiting Sacro Monte is an experience that must be done!
It is a unique place, a UNESCO heritage site since 2003, a symbol of industriousness, devotion, and high artistic ability of the hands that gave it life, over nearly four centuries. It is the oldest of the nine Sacri Monti built in the Piedmont and Lombardy Alps, and overlooks the city of Varallo from a rocky outcrop surrounded by green nature. A real fortified citadel, already visible from the access road to Valsesia and composed of 44 chapels and a basilica. Inside there are also streets, squares, palaces and gardens. More than eight hundred life-size wood or terracotta sculptures and more than three thousand frescoes. Due to this richness, Giovanni Testori, the poet of Sacro Monte, will call it “Gran Teatro Montano”.
The connection between the city of Varallo and its Sacro Monte is guaranteed by the panoramic cable car, the steepest in Europe!
– Round trip € 5.00
– One way € 3.00
– Round trip groups (at least 20 people) € 4.00
Children up to 6 travel for free.
Summer: every day from 09.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m (until 7.00 p.m on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays).
Winter: Saturday, Sunday, holidays and Christmas period from 09.00 a.m to 5.00 p.m with runs every 15 minutes.
It was the Franciscan friar Bernardino Caimi, former custodian of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in 1478, who planned towards the end of the fifteenth century the construction of a “New Jerusalem”. The aim was to allow the faithful to live, through the history told by paintings and statues, the spirituality of the pilgrimage to Holy Land. The materials used by the artists to compose the works are almost all available in Valsesia.
The sixteenth century
It was Gaudenzio Ferrari, painter, sculptor and architect, who shaped Caimi’s project, working on the Sacro Monte for about fifteen years. The reproduction of the sacred places in the life of Jesus was slowly replaced by the chronological illustration of history. Gaudenzio tells the episodes of the Gospel giving a sense of freshness, emotion and daily simplicity. In the sculptures and frescoes he portrays truthful characters that every believer could have met walking through the districts of Varallo or on the paths towards the Valsesian pastures. The story became so easily understandable and credible. In the second half of the 16th century, the Perugian architect Galeazzo Alessi hypothesized a transformation of the Sacro Monte into a real citadel, embellished with fountains, hedges, gardens and temples. Only a small part of the modifications found acceptance and were made.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
It is the bishop of Novara Carlo Bascapè to introduce the indications dictated by the Council of Trent to the Sacro Monte. The Council recognized the educational function of images for the faithful, largely illiterate, provided they were checked and verified. Bascapè will actively work intervening to supervise and, in some cases, correct the representations under construction. The construction site that develops during the seventeenth century will see the birth of a Sacro Monte almost identical in space to what we can visit today. The construction of the new basilica, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Assumption, began in 1614 and was completed in 1713. At the same time, Varallo was transformed into one of the most important cultural and training centers in the Kingdom of Sardinia and the School of Drawing was founded. Here numerous artists active at the Sacro Monte teach the new generations the production of art together with the restoration of the works of their predecessors.
The nineteenth Century
The construction of the Sacro Monte, which began in 1491, officially ends in 1896 with the affixing of the facade of the basilica. The white marble chosen for the work comes from Carrara and was transported to Varallo thanks to the railway line inaugurated ten years earlier. In the city in 1831 the Society of Drawing Encouragement was founded to support the School of Drawing. The Society of Conservation of Works of Art and Monuments in Valsesia was born in 1875, engaged in creating an art gallery that will see the light in 1885.
In 1980 the Piedmont Region established a protected area called the Special Nature Reserve to safeguard the environmental and landscape characteristics of the Sacro Monte.