Sacro Monte di Varallo
The Sacred Mount of Varallo is located in Valsesia, in the province of Vercelli. It sits on a buttress of rock above the town of Varallo (600 m a.s.l) and it is the oldest and the most important Sacred Mount of the alpine region.
Its story begins at the end of the 15th century, when the Franciscan friar Bernardino Caimi di Milano, on his return from the Holy Land, where he had been the guardian of the Holy Sepulchre, decided to reproduce the holy places of Palestine in Valsesia. The “New Jerusalem” as the Sacred Mount was called, initially was meant to reproduce the distant sites of the Christian tradition for all those who would never be able to go there. Inside these places, there were images, paintings and sculptures that evoked the corresponding events of the story of the life of Christ.
Already in the early 16th century, thanks to the work of the painter, sculptor and architect Gaudenzio Ferrari, the scenes inside the chapels were presented in a genial and innovative merging of painting, and sculptures with strong realism, so that the devout could feel strongly involved, almost part of the spectacle presented. Gaudenzio Ferrari’s work would be taken as a model for the construction of many other Sacred Mounts.
In the Counter-Reformation period, the Sacred Mount took on the nature of a route, real but at the same time mystical, that pilgrims followed recalling the story of the life of Christ.
The Sacred Mount of Varallo includes a basilica and forty-five frescoed chapels populated by over eight hundred statues. Over a period of time, numerous important Piemonte artists contributed to the decoration and completion of this extraordinary complex; among these, besides Gaudenzio Ferrari, there were Bernardino Lanino, Tanzio da Varallo, the d’Enrico brothers, il Morazzone, Dionigi Bussola and Benedetto Alfieri.