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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sacre Monte Near Stresa



Weddings on Sacro Monte di Ghiffa
Sacro Monte, overlooking Lago Maggiore, Ghiffa

In this Easter season several local tour operators have organized day tours centered around the famous Sacri Monti in this area. Piemonte and Lombardy are rich in these 'sacred mountain' sites, which are valued by the religious for their sanctity, considered of great beauty by virtue of the skill with which they have been integrated into their surroundings, and because they house an incredible amount of important artistic material in the form of frescoes, wall paintings, and statuary. For all these reasons, in 2003 the nine Sacri Monti of Piemonte and Lombardy were inscribed jointly as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Several are located close enough to Stresa to create a day dedicated to discovering them. Here's a quick guide to some of the sites closest to Stresa:

The Sacro Monte di Orta San Giulio is a Roman Catholic complex dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. It is located on the hill called San Nicolao, overlooking the western shore of picturesque Lago Orta, about a 30-minute drive from Stresa. Construction began in 1583, with the original plan calling for 36 chapels; 20 were ultimately built. Construction ended in 1788. The chapels contain many artworks of very high caliber, having been commissioned by well-known painters and sculptors of the times. The architectural styles can be seen to change with the 200 years of building. The walk to the hill summit is steep, the path between the 20 chapels clearly marked, and the views, architecture, and art offer surprises at every turn.

File:Sacro Monte di Orta cap.15.JPG
Chapel no. 15, Sacro Monte d'Orta San Giulio

Sacro Monte della SS Trinita' di Ghiffa is located in the small community of Ghiffa, about 30 minutes from Stresa, overlooking Lago Maggiore. This complex, dedicated to the mystery of the Trinity, was influenced by an earlier small oratory located here on Mount Cariago. The view of Lago Maggiore is sweeping, and the architecture displays a high level of design. Just as impressive is the landscaping, which clearly required much planning and research. Sadly, the founders and builders are unknown. The Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary Crowned was the first constructed here, in 1647. The main themes represented here in the art work are the Counter Reformation, and later, the Passion of Christ.

File:Sacro Monte Ghiffa Santuario Trinità.JPG
The Sanctuary of the Trinity, at Ghiffa.

File:Sacro Monte di Ghiffa. Fig.1.JPG
Three Angels Visiting Abraham, at Ghiffa.

Sacro Monte Calvario di Domodossola. This Sacro Monte is located on the Mattarella Hill, overlooking the charming town of Domodossola, which is located about 20 minutes north of Stresa, in the foothills of the Alps. This complex was begun in 1657, in response to the wishes of the Capuchin friars Gioacchino da Cassano and Andrea da Rho. The chapels are dedicated to the Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross, and are positioned along a devotional route which begins on the edge of Domodossola and ends at the summit. The chapel on the summit was completed in 1690 and in 1828 the philosopher Antonio Rosmini founded the Institute of Charity here.

File:Cap. 9, La terza caduta. Cap. 11, La crocefissione.JPG
View of Chapels 9 and 11, Domodossola.File:Sacro Monte di Domodossola. Figure.JPG
Inside Chapel 11, Domodossola, Jesus Dies on the Cross, 1663.

Can you imagine a day planned hiking these areas? What a great combination of serenity, exercise, history, nature, and spirituality. A car is necessary to travel easily between sites, but no site is more than about 30 minutes from another. What a nice idea for a warm spring day, to rent a car, pack up some panini and cheeses, put on your walking shoes, and discover some of the Sacri Monti of Piemonte.

Itinerary idea for the Easter season: How about a day spent wandering the Sacri Monti, a day viewing the spectacular tulip gardens at Villa Taranto, a day trip to Milan to view da Vinci's Last Supper, and a day visiting the Borromean Islands, newly opened for the season? Add a special spring dinner as the perfect finishing touch.



all photos courtesy of Wikipedia.


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