The Sacred Mount of Varallo
The Sacred Mount of Varallo
The monumental complex of the Sacred Mount rises at an altitude of 608 metres above sea level, on a rocky peak which dominates Varallo and offers very atmospheric glimpses of the town below and of the entire Valsesia district. It is an integrated part of the Special Natural Reserve, set up in 1980 by Piedmont Region.
The Sacred Mount can be reached on foot, climbing for twenty minutes along a path which starts in the centre of Varallo and ideally represents Jesus' climb to Calvary ; travelling by car, the road leaves Crosa di Varallo and there is also a cable car, which was reopened in 2003, after renovation work.
This is the oldest of the Italian Sacred Mounts, having been conceived by the Franciscan monk Bernardino Caimi and built in 1491, and was the model for the other complexes built later along the Alpine arc. The monk, upon returning from a journey to Palestine , wanted to reproduce the places he had seen and revoke the Life and Passion of Christ in Varallo. A "New Jerusalem” was built in the heart of the Valsesia district, for the benefit of worshippers unable to visit the Holy Land , which was under Turkish rule at that time. This offered pilgrims the opportunity to relive the stories told in the New Testament in the "great mountain theatre”, experiencing amazement and emotional involvement.
The sacred representation comprises 45 chapels, isolated or set into more articulate architectural complexes, 800 wood and multicoloured terracotta life-size statues and 400 frescoed figures.
The chapel itinerary is split into two separate parts: the first runs from chapel number one (Adam and Eve) to number 19 (Christ's entry into Jerusalem) and occupies the most impervious area of the park, completely immersed in the greenery of the Reserve; the second covers the summit of the Mount reached through the Golden Gate and arranged like a town: buildings, arcades, the squares of the Temple and the Court, chapels which tell the stories of the life of Christ within the walls of Jerusalem (Last Supper, Sepulchre, Resurrection, Mary's Assumption). The Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, in the middle of the sacred complex, represents the ideal arrival point for pilgrims.
Every chapel represents an episode in the life of the passion of Jesus and complex scenes have been created with frescoes and groups of wooden or painted terracotta highly expressive life-size statues, exactly like human figures, with real beards and hair.
Famous artists, and not just of local origin, worked on the project: the most important was Gaudenzio Ferrari (1471/75 – 1546), a painter, sculpture and architect from Valsesia, who worked on the project from 1499, the year in which the founding father Caimi died, until 1529, when he moved to Vercelli.
He was responsible for the conception and creation of the Nativity Scenes, the Arrival of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Piety.
After his departure, work on the Valsesia site was continued by Lanino, Luini, the architect Galeazzo Alessi, the sculptors Tabacchetti and Giovanni d'Errico and the painters Morazzone, Tanzio, Rocca, Gherardini and Gianoli, who took part in the renewal of the complex, starting in the middle of the 16 th century.
The Basilica devoted to the Holy Virgin was begun in 1814, with the façade by Giovanni Cerutti and the main altar by Benedetto Alfieri.
Visiting the Sacred Mount, one can begin a personal climb, starting from the chapel of Adam and Eve, moving on to the Annunciation and the episodes of the life of Christ, culminating in the absolute drama of the Passion, expressed in the various episodes that tell the story of Christ's last hours on earth until the Resurrection. The visit ends at the Sepulchre of the Virgin.
Since 2003 the Sacred Mount of Varallo has been part of the international heritage protected by UNESCO.
Info: Special Natural Reserve of the Sacred Mount of Varallo Tel. 0039 0163 53938
Info and reservations: Casa delle Guide Ph. +39.377.4654982
Cable-cars to Sacro Monte
Tel. +39 0163 564391
Round trip tickets € 5.00
One-way tickets € 3.00
Groups: round trip tickets € 4.00
(for every 20 people, 1 free ticket)
Children: 6 years and under are free
Luggage transport: € 0.20
Working days: 9.00-18.00, holidays: 9.00-19.00.
*Each car can hold up to 15 persons;
*The ride to Sacro Monte lasts 80 seconds;
*The cars are equipped to transport disabled persons;
*In case of bad weather conditions, the service may be suspended.
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR REACHING SACRO MONTE:
*Buses do not normally go up to Sacro Monte
* buses may only go up to the car park in the third square if previously authorised by the municipal police (Comando di Polizia Municipale di Varallo Tel. 0039 0163 562727) and subject to a prior payment of € 250.00 per bus. In the event of a bus arriving at Sacro Monte without previous authorisation, the driver will be sanctioned according to the Italian highway code; in addition, the collection of the sum not previously paid by the vehicle owner will be put into action;
* buses whose passengers are either taking lunch or dinner in any of the restaurants in Varallo may go up to Sacro Monte upon prior payment of € 150.00 as long as they exhibit a copy of the restaurant and car park booking on the dashboard;
* buses whose passengers are staying in one of the hotels at Sacro Monte may go up to the car park in the third square upon prior payment of € 50.00 as long as they exhibit a copy of the hotel and car park booking on the dashboard.
*Cars may go up to Sacro Monte
Parking spaces located in the car park in front of Piazza Testori: free
Parking spaces located in the three car parks (excluding the covered car park which is available only to the Park Reserve): with parking metres valid 24 hours a day
- no parking spaces in the pay-and-display car parks are reserved for hotel employees or guests; only those holding "parking permits”, free or payable, may park in any of the free spaces in the pay-and-display area. The fee for parking permits is € 50.00 a year and may be acquired at the Municipal Police Station.