Faith and nature: sanctuaries, churches and Sacro Montes

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A journey through faith and nature to explore sacred places: votive chapels, Sacro Montes, abbeys and monasteries in splendid natural settings.

As in all of Italy, here religious art has left its mark on centuries and centuries of the local history of Lake Maggiore and its valleys. But there is no other part of Italy where the tradition of the Sacro Monte is so strong. These religious-devotional complexes have now been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The Sacro Monte Calvario of Domodossola, the Sacro Monte of Ghiffa and the Sacro Monte of Orta are wonderful examples of a perfect union of faith and nature.

Often it’s the very magnificence of nature that gives rise to strong religious feelings, sometimes in improbable places, as with the Sanctuary of Sant’Anna, overlooking the gorge from which it takes its name; or where the view is breathtaking, as with the Sanctuary of San Salvatore at Massino Visconti, a mystic place surrounded by beech and birch woods.

On many paths all over the area you will come across those signs of folk piety that are wayside shrines and votive chapels: Pisano, Colazza and Magognino, in the Vergante district, or the wooded slopes of Monterosso above Verbania, offer many of these pleasing examples of religious architecture.

Nowhere as well as this area, with the immense beauty of its lakes, valleys and hills, is this union of faith and nature so perceptible and so strong.