Sanctuary of Oropa
Ideal for those who want to combine moments of serenity to opportunities for cultural enrichment in a unique setting, the Sanctuary of Oropa appears as a gem set amid green meadows and surrounded by mountains. Located at 1200 m above sea level, it is the most important Marian shrine of the Alps. Popular tradition has it that the initiator of Christian worship in Oropa was Sant'Eusebio, Bishop of Vercelli, in the 4th century AD. Tradition narrates that the Saint brought a wooden statue of the Virgin with him, that had been sculpted by St. Luke. He supposedly found it in Jerusalem and brought it to Oropa, hiding it between the rocks where the Cappella del Roc now stands, built in the first half of the 18th century by the inhabitants of Fontainemore, a town in Valle d'Aosta that is still strongly linked to the Shrine by an ancient procession that winds around the mountains separating the two valleys every five years. The spiritual centre of the Shrine, the Basilica Antica, was built in the 17th century, after a vow made by the City of Biella on the occasion of the plague epidemic of 1599. In 1620, when the church was completed, they held the first of the solemn coronations that every one hundred years have marked the sanctuary's history. The majestic complex is completed by the Upper Basilica, cloister, monumental buildings and staircase that leads to the Port Regia. The sanctuary complex also houses an ex-voto collection, the Royal Apartments, the Weather and Seismic Observatory, the Library and Historical Archives and the Museum of the Treasure of the Sanctuary, in addition to the Monumental Cemetery. Exhibitions, events and guided tours are organised at the Sanctuary of Oropa. There are also shops and local restaurants. Near the Sanctuary stands the Sacro Monte of Oropa complex, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. A set of twelve chapels dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary and furnished by life-sized statues in polychrome terracotta protected by a Special Reserve established by Regione Piemonte. In Oropa, visitors will also find the Adventure Park, the Cable Cars and an interesting Botanical Garden where events and educational workshops are organised. The Sanctuary of Oropa has over 300 rooms for tourists.