Sacri Monti Italy

Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, Italy
Sacri Monti by Stefano Bistolfi

Sacro Monte di Crea. Cappella del Paradiso. In the heart of Monferrato, on the top of a hill surrounded by a wonderful wine-growing landscape, stands the Sacro Monte di Crea, founded in 1589 on the initiative of Costantino Massino, Lateran prior of the Sanctuary of the Madonna Assunta. Costantino Massino proposed to build a religious itinerary inspired by the Sacro Monte di Varallo, to encourage prayer and meditation and to renew the Marian devotion linked to the Sanctuary, a pilgrimage destination of considerable importance since the 11th century. The strong link between the sanctuary and the ruling dynasty in Monferrato made the duke, the nobility, the high clergy and local communities participate in the enterprise. In the first phase of the history of the Sacro Monte, which ended around 1657, important artists also worked in the Sacred Mountains of Orta, Varallo and Varese, including Moncalvo, Prestinari and de Wespin, authors of the spectacular sculptural complex of the chapel del Paradiso (c. 23), made in the years between 1604 and 1612. During the eighteenth century the Sacro Monte gradually fell into a state of neglect and, between 1796 and 1801, the incusions of the French revolutionary troops contributed to the ruin of many structures, statues and frescoes. For some decades the Sacro Monte was abandoned and only in 1820 a community of Franciscan friars, who became responsible for the Sanctuary, began to restore some buildings. In 1885 a systematic restoration campaign began, supported by the bishop of Milan Nazari di Calabiana and destined to last until the 1920s. During this phase, in which some buildings were built from scratch, the famous symbolist sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi intervened in chapel 16, modeling the statues of the Ascent to Calvary. Image by Stefano Bistolfi

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