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Sacro Monte, Varese, Italy

Sacro Monte, a beautiful hill in Varese, North of Italy. It is an insteresting sanctuary to visit near the Lago Maggiore. UNESCO declared the place to be World Heritage site.

By A. Rodas (El Viajero Paisa),

Varese, Italy (Aug. 2004), Jerusalem, Israel (May 2005)


The Sanctuary

    On top of the Sacro Monte by Varese (formely Mount Orona), 880 meters high, lies one of the most ancient sanctuaries of the Holy Mary. On the savage part of the mountains, an ancient tower remains as a reminder that during the times of imperial Rome this place was known by guerrilla warriors, who had chosen it as a look out post. Later it became a home to the dispelled Aryans, who sought a safe refuge up here. It was here, amid these rocks, where S. Ambrogio fought and definitely defeated the heretics, thanks not to the strenght of weapons, but to the intervention of the Holy Mary (it is said that the Virgin appeared to the archbishop during the battle). On November 1, 389, the Archbishop celebrated the first Mass on an altar built at the top of the mountain.

The way to the Sanctuary and the Chapels

    On the way to the top of the mountain there are twelve Chapels of the Rosary, a sign of devotion to the Sanctuary which enhances it’s artistic value. Father Giambattista Aguggiari climb to the top every week. As he was making his way through the only narrow and dangerous path of then, he was thinking how to improve it for the sake of the pilgrims. He conceived a daring project that would considerably widen the existing path and include the building of twelve evenly spaced Chapels, representing the Mysteries of the Rosary. The initiative, in association with Architect Bersnasconi, had wide support, and the enthusiasm around it never ceased, even though times were hard and difficulties were many. The works continued for almost a century: from 1604 to 1690. The way to the top, which at times is some thirteen meters wide, was entirely dug in the rock and offers breathtaking view points. The Chapels display a number of man-size statues made of colored stucco and frescoes depicting scenes from the Gospel, resulting from the effort of several renowned artists. Chapels VII –also known as Morazzone’s – and X, of Crucifixion, are particular remarkable. The others are Nuova Gerusalemme in Varallo Sesia (Vc), Nostra Signora dell'Assunzione di Serralunga in Crea a Ponzano (Al), Santa Vergine in Oropa (Bi), Santa Trinità in Ghiffa (Vb), Calvario in Domodossola (Vb), Santuario di Belmonte in Valperga Canavese (To) and this one, San Franceso in Orta San Giulio (No).  The itinerary is easy: if you come by car, you can let it just in the place where the path starts, some meters up the hill and walk following the way. Each chapel has beautiful biblical representation of the Rosary. You can see the different periods of art made and artists because the work was finished after a long period (Renaissance, the mid-1600s Baroque and later 1700s). It was Cleto, a Capuchin monk, who designed the landscape and vegetation.

The Monastery

    A well known Monastery is located next to the Sanctuary. It is related to Blessed Caterina and Giuliana, nuns that have lived there since 1452 after a vision of the Lord to embrace a hermitic life.


    The city is not so big but wonderful place to visit: near the Laggo Maggiore, Sacro Monte, the National Astronomical Observatory, an aircraft’s club and beautiful nature that made the place a paradise for retreats and tourism. It is not far from the Switzerland’s boarder, Milan and Monte Bianco. It is also around an hour far from Malpensa Airport.  

    I liked very much the central park of the city full of trees of different kinds, water and surrounded by aged buildings. Downtown has all the modern characteristics of a lively city among the well preserved architectures and narrow streets.


 A typical Italian street in Varese (The S, Stefano Parish, just in the foot of Sacro Monte Mountain. A lovely place where the Renassaince rich families of Milan used to come for summers. Today the place is full of great villas with a little use.


From the Mayor Milan's Seminary, a huge building of the years 30's, you can contemplate the Monte Bianco in the horizont.


The beautiful, unforgetable and aged Church of S. Stefano Parish in Sacro Monte Mountain. Italy is a great museum from North to South. I could proved it just in a little chapel like this full of art and spirituality... and great people, of course.



Here the Lago Maggiore, for me, a place you cannot describe: fresh, wide, colorful... This is one of the best places and views: Santa Maria del Sasso (it is like "Saint Mary of the Rock"), an ancient monastery (with bones of ancient monks included. In the Laggo Maggiore is the island of the Borromeos as well.


Well, just imagine what I can feel when I saw every single chapter of Cosmos by Karl Sagan when I was a kid (no so much time ago, of course). This is the Astronomical Observatory of Varese, in Campo dei Fiori, other top of the same Sacro Monte Mountain. Here there is an astronomic club just to see starts. I am with Emanuela Giuliani, a very good friend in Varese.


This was sponsored by father Adriano Sandri, the parish priest of S. Stefano. He is a member of the aircraft club of Varese and he brought me around the place. No comments, I could see every thing from the air and here… ohhh… I WAS LEADING AN AIRCRAFT FOR THE FIRST TIME...  I hope not the last...