Treasures of the Church- Holy Sites
VIRGIN MARY AND THE HOLY HOUSE OF LORETO
House of Loreto is the same house of Nazareth that the Archangel
Gabriel visited in the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It
is there where the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. The Holy
Family also lived there in its return from Egypt and where Jesus
spent 30 of his 33 years next to the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.
The Holy House was soon turned into a place of gathering for the
celebration of the Holy Mass of the early Christians. We can imagine
with what love and veneration they took care of this Holy Place.
Today the Holy House is located inside the Basilica which was built
for the House in Loreto, Italy. Inside the house of Loreto the small
statue of the Virgin of Loreto is venerated.
The Holy House of Nazareth had two parts: one was a small grotto and
the second part was a small brick structure that extended from the
entrance of the grotto. The brick structure did not have but three
walls, since one side touched the wall of the grotto.
How did the house of Nazareth arrive in Loreto, Italy? There are
various traditions. One of them speaks of angels who transported the
house by air. There are documents, however, that seem to indicate
that the one responsible was a merchant named Nicéforo Angelo of the
13th century. Perhaps his last name inspired the idea of the move by
the angels. In any case, such an extraordinary task undoubtedly had
the protection and guide from Heaven. The angel had already said to
the Virgin Mary in that same house, “For nothing is impossible for
Attempt to destroy the Holy House
The House of Loreto is sacred in virtue of who lived in it. Many
consider the Holy House of Loreto as one of the most sacred places
in the world and God did not want this house to be profaned or
destroyed, but preserved for forever.
The devil, men, and the world usually go against everything God
wants and with this blessed house it was the same. In 1291, the
Sarracenes were conquering Holy Land. They wanted to erase the
entire history of Christianity and the best way for them was by
destroying all of the sacred places. They thought that by
eliminating all of the visible signs of Christianity they would
extinguish their love and devotion.
They went in search of each place that was venerated for its
association with the life of Christ. When they arrived at the
proximity of Nazareth, the Holy House did not have human defense. It
was well-known because Christians from the time of the Apostles held
it with great reverence and celebrated Holy Mass there. The enemies
said, “Never again will Christians celebrate the Annunciation here.”
The Basilica built over the Holy House had already been destroyed
twice before. The first time was in 1090 a.d. Nonetheless, the house
remained intact. The Crusaders rebuilt the Basilica, but in 1263 it
was destroyed again. Once again the Crusaders tried to protect the
Holy House, but this time, they were not able to rebuild the
Basilica and the Holy House was left unprotected.
The Tradition of the Angelic Move
According to this tradition, in 1291 when the Crusaders lost
control over the Holy Land, our Lord decided to send angels to
protect his Holy House and gave them the order to move the house to
a secure place.
“Take the Holy House to a secure place, far away from the hatred of
my enemies of this land where I was born. Raise it above to the air
where no one can reach it. May no one see it.”
May 12th of 1291, the angels moved the house to a small town named
Tersatto in Croatia. Very early in the morning the neighbors
discovered it and they were astonished to see this House without a
foundation and they could not explain how it arrived there. They
entered and saw an altar of rock. On the altar there was a cedar
statue of the Virgin Mary who had the child Jesus in her arms. The
Child Jesus had his two fingers of his right hand extended as if he
was giving a blessing. With his left hand he held a golden sphere
that represented the world. Both were dressed with robes and had
Some days later, the Virgin Mary appeared to a priest of that place
and explained to him where the house came from. She said, “You
should know that the house that was recently brought to your land is
the same house in which I was born and grew up. Here, in the
Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of
all things. Here, the Word became flesh. The altar that was moved
with the house was consecrated by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles.
This house has come from Nazareth to your land by the power of God
for whom nothing is impossible. Now, so that you can give a
testimony of this, be healed. Your unexpected and sudden healing
will confirm the truth that I have declared to you today.”
The priest who had been sick for a long time was healed immediately
and announced to the people the miracle that had occured.
Pilgrimages to the Holy House began. The residents of this small
town built over the Holy House a simple building to protect it from
the elements of nature.
The joy of the Croatians, however, lasted a very short time. After
the three years and seven months that the house was in this town, on
the night of December 10 of 1294, the house disappeared from
Tersatto to never return again.
A devoted resident of Tersatto built a small church on the place
where the house had been. It was a replica of the Holy House and he
put the following inscription, “The Holy House of the Virgin Mary
came from Nazareth on May 10, 1291 and stayed here until December
The Croatian people continued to venerate our Blessed Mother in the
replica of the Holy House. Their devotion was so great that Pope
Urban V sent the people of Tersatto an image of Our Blessed Mother
in 1367. This image is believed to have been sculpted by Saint Luke.
The Holy House is taken to Italy
On December 10 of 1294, some shepherds of the region of Loreto
in Italy reported to have seen a house flying over the ocean, held
by angels. There was an angel dressed with a red cape (Saint
Michael) who directed the others and the Virgin Mary with the Child
Jesus were seated on the House. The angels lowered the house on the
place named Banderuola.
Many arrived to visit this holy house, but there were also some who
went to mug the pilgrims. For this reason, people stopped going and
the house was again moved by the angels to a hill in the middle of a
farm. The Holy House would not remain there for much longer. The
farm belonged to two brothers who began to discuss who was the owner
of the house. For a third time the house was moved to another hill
and they placed it in the middle of the path. This is the place that
it has occupied for 700 years.
The residents of Recanati and Loreto truly did not know the story of
the Holy House; they only knew of the miracles that took place
there. Two years later, the Virgin Mary appeared to a hermit named
Paul and she told him the origin and the history of the Holy House:
“It was kept in the city of Nazareth until with the permission of
God those who honored this house were thrown out by the enemies.
Since it was no longer honored and it was in danger of being
profaned, my Son wanted to transfer it from Nazareth to Yugoslavia
and from there to your land.”
Paul then told this story to the townspeople and they began a
process to verify the authenticity of the house. They first went to
Tersatto and later to Nazareth.
Investigations From the Experts
The experts assigned to this project went to Tersatto. There
they verified that the walls were of a reddish color and close to 16
inches wide. They also discovered that the replica measured exactly
the same as the Loreto house. The house measured 31 ¼ feet long by
13 feet 4 inches wide by 28 feet high. It had only one door of 7feet
tall and 4 1/2 feet wide. It also had a window. All of the
descriptions, including those of the interior elements and the
statues agreed. In Nazareth they discovered that it truly was the
house of the Virign Mary. The measurements of its foundatin were
exactly the same as those of Loreto and the model built in Tersatto.
After six months they returned to Loreto and declared the
authenticity of the Holy House. Years later, they found coins
underneath the house that were not only from the area of Nazareth
but also from the time during which the house was in Nazareth. The
stones and the soil used to fill the house were identical to the
ones used in Nazareth during that time and civilation. The house
does not have a foundation since it stayed in Nazareth.
Anecdotes from the Holy House of Loreto
There came a time when many pilgrims went to this sanctuary and
so Pope Clement VII ordered that the original door be closed and
three doors be built since there was only one door and people would
fight to enter and exit. There was only one problem- no one asked
the Virgin Mary for permission to make the changes. When the
architect took his hammer to begin, his hand withered and he began
He immediately left Loreto and no one else wanted to do the job.
Some time later, a priest named Ventura Barino accepted to do the
job, but he first knelt down and prayed to the Virgin Mary. He told
her that it was not his fault but that it was an order from the
Pope; if she was angry, then she should take it up against the Pope
and not him. The priest was able to finish the job.
The people of Loreto also decided to protect the Holy House by
installing a brick wall, but after they finished, the wall separated
itself from the house. That is why there is a space between the Holy
House and the wall that was built.
Give back to the Virgin what belongs to Her
story recounts that the Bishop of Portugal visited the Holy House
and wanted to take a stone to build a church in honor of the Virgin
of Loreto. The Pope gave him permission and the Bishop sent his
secretary to remove the stone and take it back with him. The Bishop
suddenly became sick and when his secretary arrived the Bishop was
almost dead. The Bishop asked a few religious sisters to pray for
him and some days later he received this message, “Our Lady says:
‘if the Bishop wants to recover, he should return to the Virgin Mary
what he has taken from her’.” The secretary and Bishop were
astonished from this since no one knew about the stone from the Holy
House. The secretary departed immediately to Loreto with the stone
and when he arrived, the Bishop was completely healed. For this
reason, during many centuries the Popes have prohibited, under
threat of ex-communication, the removal of any part of the Holy
A Sacred Place
The Holy House is considered one of the most sacred places in
the world. Before the Holy House was transferred, Saint Francis of
Assisi had profetized that one day Loreto would be called the most
sacred place in the world and, for this reason, a house should be
Many saints, blesseds, and Popes have visited the house. Amongst
them: Saint Francis of Sales made his vows of celibacy in the Holy
House; Saint Therese of Lisieux – before she went to ask the Pope
for permission to enter the Carmel at the age of 15, she visited the
Maximilian Kolbe – in his return to the city of the Immaculata,
shortly before being taken to the concentration camp; and many other
saints. Pope John XXIII went the day before convening the Second
Vatican Council and he asked the Virgin of Loreto for the protection
of the Council. John Paul II has visited the House of Loreto many
times and has had conventions with young people and families there.
Many pilgrims go each year to visit the Holy House, the place where
the Holy Family lived and received the graces God wanted to grant
them. It is a tradition to pray on one’s knees the Holy Rosary
around the House. It is a penetiantial rosary asking the powerful
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Processions with candles of
the Blessed Sacrament form part of the celebrations in the Basilica
of the Holy House of Loreto.
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