Sanctuary of the Santissima Pietà in Cannobio

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How to get

From the A26 exit for Verbania, then continue along the SS34 Lake Maggiore road towards the Swiss border as far as Cannobio.


The Sanctuary of the Santissima Pietà on the fine lakefront of Cannobio was built by order of San Carlo Borromeo about 1578 over a small earlier church, which stood on the spot where the Miracle of the Holy Pity is said to have occurred between 8 January and 27 February 1522.

The di Tommaso Zacchei family kept in its house a painting representing Crist standing next to the holy grave together with Mary and San Giovanni. According to the story, the painting of Christ became animate and began to emit blood and tears, while a fragment of a human rib protruded from Christ’s wounded side.

Today the picture and some of the bloodstained cloths belonging to witnesses of the miracle are kept in a niche on the high altar of the Sanctuary. The Holy Rib is preserved in a reliquary in the Church of San Vittore.

The single-nave church has a rectangular apse and an elegant dome lantern; it is richly decorated (17th-18th centuries) with paintings, stucco, and polychrome marble. The most valuable artwork is the altarpiece on the high altar, an oil on board painting of the Ascent to Calvary (ca. 1540) by the renowned painter Gaudenzio Ferrari.

On the evening of the 7th of January each year the traditional, highly atmospheric religious festival of the Lumineri, or lights, is held in the town. The Holy Rib is carried from the Parish Church of San Vittore to the Sanctuary in a solemn procession illuminated only by hundreds of candles and lanterns placed on windowsills and along the streets.