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Madonna del Sasso (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy): Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock

Foto Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Foto Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Foto Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Foto Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Foto Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Show an other place around Milan worth a visit:
Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Sanctuary of the Virgin of the RockThe Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock ("della Madonna del Sasso") is located on the "Balcony of Cusio", a granite spur at 638 meters above sea level from which you can admire a spectacular view of Lake Orta and Cusio. Towards the south, when the sky is very clear, you can see Novara, Vercelli and even Milan.
Originally the first name was Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Sorrows of the Stone of Boleto, then in 1752, following a miracle where the Virgin saved 350 stonemasons, it took the name of Virgin of the Stone.

The current complex consists of the church, the bell tower and the hermit's house and was built in the first half of the eighteenth century.
Originally, on the site of the current church, at the foot of Mount Avigno, there was a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Already in 1590 the documents attest to the existence of a church, a church built some time before, since in it there was already the table of the Deposition (today the altarpiece of the main altar), painted by Fermo Stella da Caravaggio in 1541.
This first church became a very popular sanctuary. In addition to the valuable painting, it also housed a small statue of the Vergin of the Rosary believed to be miraculous and now preserved in the sacristy of the current sanctuary.
In 1706 Pietro Paolo Minola from Boleto decided to have a new Sanctuary built to replace the old one in thanksgiving for a grace received.
Around 1725 the works began and in 1748 the church was completed, while in 1760 the bell tower and the house for the priests, which was built next to the church, were finished.
In 1773 Minola donated to the Sanctuary the body of San Donato martyr, legionary of Thebes, killed in 200 in Rome and buried in the catacombs of San Callisto.

The church has a Greek cross plan, not perfect, however, since the arm containing the presbytery and the choir is much longer than the one that houses the entrance.
Externally the church, which appears all plastered in white, is dominated by the high facade with two orders marked by pilasters (with the two central ones that curiously continue upwards even inside the pediment placed at the apex). In turn, the façade is characterized by a large three-arched portico with a balustrade with local granite pillars, placed in front of it and which occupies almost the entire width. The capitals of the four pilasters that appear on the facade to divide the three arches of the portico bear the pierced heart in effigy, the symbol of Our Lady of Sorrows, to whom the sanctuary was originally dedicated.
The lower order of the facade includes three entrances with portals with Baroque lines, the upper order, in the center, a large mixtilinear window. Another smaller window is placed in the center of the tympanum.
A rather large tiburium is grafted onto the upper part of the church.

The bell tower, entirely in stone, is placed not against the church, but against the parish house, on a facade of which there is, in a mixed-linear frame, a fresco depicting a Virgin with Child and saints.

The interior of the church is, as mentioned, a Greek cross, with a deep presbytery and choir. The four arms of the cross are connected by walls placed diagonally and occupied in the upper part by exedras with a balcony with polychrome marble balustrade.
Virtually all the internal surfaces are decorated with baroque frescoes painted by the same designer of the sanctuary, Lorenzo Peracino da Cellio (also author of the fresco on the external wall of the parish house).
The dome (Figure highlighted) is frescoed in trompe l'oeil style to simulate a circular room with walls marked by columns and populated by angels holding the symbols of the various martyrs.
The side chapels are two and coincide with the lateral arms of the cross. It should be noted that in both cases there is an altar, but a real retable is missing, replaced by a pictorial simulation of it. The back walls are flat but painted in trompe l'oeil style to simulate two rich marble altarpieces behind which a deep room should extend.
The left chapel is dedicated to St. Joseph (Fig. 3), depicted on his deathbed in an altarpiece, also by Lorenzo Peracino, placed in the center of the false retable. On the polychrome marble altar there is also a richly decorated display case with the bones and blood of St. Donato.
The chapel on the right (Fig. 4) is instead dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary. At the center of the fake retable there is a (real) niche with a statue of the Virgin inside. On the sides of the simulated retable there are fourteen also simulated ovals depicting as many episodes from the life of the Virgin.
On the counter-façade there is a choir with a balustrade decorated with panels depicting musical instruments, King David playing the lyre and two angels holding sheet music. Inside the choir there is a large organ from the sixteenth century.
The presbytery and the choir are separated from the nave by a sumptuous curvilinear balustrade in polychrome marble. The vault is decorated with trompe l'oeil frescoes to simulate a circular architectural structure on several levels. In the center there is a sort of balcony of clouds in which the Virgin is crowned by Christ and by God the Father. In the sky that opens above this circular hall, among the clouds, a triumph of musician angels.
It should be noted that the two real windows placed on the left side of the upper part of the choir are accompanied by three trompe l'oeil windows, in the center and on the right, in order to restore symmetry.
The lower part of the back walls is occupied by the solid wood choir stalls on two levels. Above it are placed five canvases inside very simple and linear wooden frames to which are added, externally, rich trompe l'oeil frames in Baroque style (except for the canvas in the center, placed inside a mixtilinear frame decorated with floral motifs in relief).
They depict, from left to right, Adoration of the shepherds, characterized by the fact that the only light present appears to be emanating from the Child Jesus, Crucifixion, Virgin and Child (to be verified), Transit of the Virgin and Nativity of Mary.
The center of the presbytery is occupied by the large baroque high altar in polychrome marble (Fig. 5). On the sides of the altarpiece of architectural structure there are two angels, while four putti, two of which are bronze-colored, are located at the top, above a broken pediment.
In the niche protected by a glass in the center of the retable there is a table of 1547, entitled "Lamentation over the dead Christ" and known as "Pietà", by Fermo Stella from Caravaggio, a pupil of Gaudenzio Ferrari.

In 1998, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of its construction, the entire complex was completely restored.
The chapels located in the square in front of the church were in a bad state and devoid of paintings due to the passage of time; now they have been restored and represent five moments of the Passion.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

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Further pictures of Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock in the section Photography
Madonna del Sasso (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy): Presbytery and choir of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Madonna del Sasso (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy): Frescoes inside the dome of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Madonna del Sasso (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy): Interior of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock
Madonna del Sasso (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy): Vault of the choir of the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rock