Sanctuary of Oropa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Sanctuary of Oropa
Santuario della beata Vergine di Oropa[1]
Biella, Santuario di Oropa - Basilica Antica 02.JPG
View of the Ancient Basilica
Sanctuary of Oropa is located in Italy
Sanctuary of Oropa
Sanctuary of Oropa
45°37′42″N 7°58′44″E / 45.628333°N 7.978889°E / 45.628333; 7.978889Coordinates: 45°37′42″N 7°58′44″E / 45.628333°N 7.978889°E / 45.628333; 7.978889
Authorising papal bull9th century
DedicationBlack Virgin of Oropa
Architectural typeMainly baroque
DioceseDiocese of Biella

The Sanctuary of Oropa (Italian: santuario di Oropa), is a group of Roman Catholic buildings and structures in the municipality of Biella, Italy. It is located at a height of 1,159 metres in a small valley of the Alpi Biellesi.[2]


The Upper Basilica

According to legend, a black wooden statue of the Virgin Mary carved by Saint Luke was found in Jerusalem by Saint Eusebius of Vercelli and carried to Oropa in the 4th century AD[3] and placed into a small niche in a big boulder. Around that niche housing the statue in the Middle Ages was built first a church, which during the early 17th century was replaced with what is known today as the Ancient Basilica. In the following two centuries several other buildings were added to the complex, including the royal apartments of the House of Savoy, a big library and the Royal Gate, a masterpiece designed by the architect Filippo Juvarra in the 18th century.[3]

The last building added to the sanctuary was the Upper Basilica, a monumental church built between 1885 and 1960 due the large number of pilgrims visiting Oropa.[4] Its dome is 80 metres high and the church can hold 3000 people.[5]

In 1617, the construction of the Sacro Monte di Oropa (literally Sacred Mount of Oropa) was built not far from the sanctuary. It is a devotional path now composed of twelve chapels (plus another seven nearby) containing groups of statues representing scenes from the story of the Virgin Mary's life.

Near the Sacro Monte in the 19th century was built a new graveyard, where the noble families of the Biellese territory built their family tombs. Some graves have free masons symbols, such as Quintino Sella's one.

Devotion and popular beliefs[edit]

The statue of the black Madonna has always been venerated and to the Virgin of Oropa are attributed miracles and protections. The town of Biella made a vow during the 17th-century plague and it wasn't infected. Following this grace, the town does a pilgrimage every year to the sanctuary in order to thank the Virgin Mary.

People during the centuries made ex-voto (for grace) pictures to thank the Virgin Mary. All of these pictures are still preserved in the sanctuary in the 'ex voto gallery'. The oldest picture dates back to 1522 and was made by painter Bernardino Lanino.

The popular belief says that the wooden statue has some peculiar characteristics:

  • despite the age of the statue it has no woodworm;[6]
  • the foot, despite the ancient tradition of touching it for good luck, is not worn out;[7]
  • dust does not settle on the faces of the Virgin and of the Baby.[8]


Around 800,000 pilgrims and one-hundred pilgrimages visit the sanctuary each year.[3]

The evocative and ancient pilgrimage from Fontainemore to Oropa takes place every five years.

Nature conservation[edit]

View from the Oropa-lago del Mucrone cableway

The mountain area surrounding the sanctuary is included in a regional park of 1,518.28 ha (code: EUAP0882) named Riserva Naturale Speciale del Sacro Monte di Oropa.[9]



The Sanctuary has been the end of a stage of the Giro d'Italia six times.

Year Stage Date Track km Winner Leader general classification
1963 11ª 29 May Asti > Santuario di Oropa 130 Italy Vito Taccone Italy Diego Ronchini
1993 20ª 11 June Torino > Santuario di Oropa 162 Italy Massimo Ghirotto Spain Miguel Indurain
1999 15ª 30 May Racconigi > Santuario di Oropa 160 Italy Marco Pantani Italy Marco Pantani
2007 13ª 25 May Biella > Santuario di Oropa (cron. individuale) 12,6 Italy Marzio Bruseghin Italy Danilo Di Luca
2014 14ª 24 May Agliè > Oropa 184 Italy Enrico Battaglin Colombia Rigoberto Urán
2017 14ª 20 May Castellania > Oropa 131 Netherlands Tom Dumoulin Netherlands Tom Dumoulin

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni, specialmente intorno ai principali santi, beati ..., Gaetano Moroni, Tipografia Emiliana, 1840; (accessed in February 2014)
  2. ^ CTR (Carta Tecnica Regionale) 1:10.000, Regione Piemonte, Settore Cartografico and Settore Sistema Informativo Territoriale, 2007 raster version
  3. ^ a b c The sanctuary of Oropa, province of Biella tourist office; web page on (accessed in February 2014)
  4. ^ History of the sanctuary, official web-site (accessed in February 2014)
  5. ^ Santuario diOropa (BI), on (accessed in February 2014)
  6. ^ Trompetto, Massimo (1993). Storia del Santuario di Oropa. Biella. pp. 20–25.
  7. ^ "Santuario di Oropa (IV secolo) - Patrimonio dell'Umanità (UNESCO)". Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  8. ^ Roberto Allegri. "Il mistero della "Madonna bruna"". Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  9. ^ Riserva Naturale Speciale del Sacro Monte di Oropa, description on (accessed in February 2014)

Other projects[edit]

Media related to Sacro Monte (Oropa) at Wikimedia Commons

External links[edit]