In discovery of the Santa Casa and its many artistic works
The splendid City of Loreto, tucked inside the countryside of the Marches Region, owes its fame to the sanctuary where the Santa Casa della Vergine Maria (Shrine of the Holy House of the Virgin Mary) is preserved and venerated. It is a holy place defined by Pope John Paul II as “the true Marian heart of Christianity.” The sanctuary has been one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the Catholic faith for centuries, having been visited by approximately 200 saints and beatified persons, as well as by numerous Popes.
According to ancient tradition, and today substantiated by historical and archaeological research, the Santa Casa is the house from Nazareth where the Virgin Mary was born, educated, and where she received the Annunciation.
The house was composed of one room in masonry, with three walls in stone placed so as to enclose a rock cavern.
This cavern is worshipped by pilgrims who flock to Nazareth, that is to the Basilica of the Annunciation, while the three stone walls, as legend has it, were brought to Italy (first passing through Illyria) by crusaders expelled from Palestine in 1291. The walls arrived in Loreto in 1294.
Not only, but documents and archaeological excavations have continued to reinforce the hypothesis that the walls of the Santa Casa were transported to Loreto by ship, an initiative undertaken by the Angeli Family, nobles who ruled over Epirus at the time.
Indeed, one document dating back to 1294 (recently discovered), testifies that Niceforo Angeli, despot of Epirus, in offering his daughter Ithamar’s hand in marriage to Philip of Taranto (son of the King of Naples, Charles II of Anjou), gave the Prince a dowry that included such treasures as the “holy stones taken from the Home of our Lady the Virgin Mother of God.”
In order to protect these humble stone walls, and to receive the ever-larger masses of pilgrims visiting the sacred relic, construction works on the magnificent Sanctuary of Loreto were begun in the mid-15th Century.