Nestled in the Italian countryside, with a view of the Adriatic Sea, is a small town set high on a hill named Loreto. It would perhaps be yet another quaint, but otherwise unremarkable small Italian village if not for a rather curious and miraculous house that, according to pious custom, was transported there by angels. We are talking about the Holy House of Loreto, birthplace and then home of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and later the Holy Family.
From Nazareth to Italy
The Holy House of Loreto was first the home of Joachim and Ann, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It might also be the house in which the Immaculate Conception and Incarnation took place. Situated in Nazareth, this was also the house the Holy Family came to dwell in once they returned from Egypt. How then did it come to be in a hilltop town in Italy? Well, according to Fr. Alexander Geogevich, who was a priest in a local church in Tersatto, Croatia in 1291, the Holy House first appeared in his town! His account of the house appearing included verification by Our Lady herself, who, he said, appeared to him to explain whose house had just appeared in his town. As proof, Our Lady interceded for him and obtained a cure for an illness with which he had long suffered. The Holy House remained in Croatia for 3 years before it was transported again, this time to Italy, and just in time to spare it from destruction by the invading Muslim army.
Of the angels or by the angels?
When the Holy House came to permanently reside in Italy two different explanations of how a house from the middle east came to be built in what is now called Loreto emerged. The first explanation involves the house being transported by angels of heaven, who picked it up from its foundation and flew it across the Mediterranean Sea. It is because of this story that Our Lady of Loreto is a special intercessor for aviators! The second explanation that emerged involves a rich family, the d’Angeli family (which translates to “of the angels.”) According to this story and several pieces of art from the late 13th century, the house was carefully deconstructed brick by brick, catalogued, and then moved from its foundation in Nazareth, taken by sea, and eventually transported to Italy as a wedding present to the wealthy Niceforo d’Angeli’s daughter, where it was carefully reconstructed. Either story is quite remarkable, and the faithful are free to subscribe to either explanation. According to fellow Epic Pew author, Chloe Langr, more than a few Popes have supported the miraculous transport by angels version of events, including, Popes Benedict XII, Blessed Urban V, Urban VI, Pope Paul II, Julius II, Leo X, St. Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sixtus V, Clement VIII, Clement X, Innocent XII, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV.
Inside the house of Our Lady
Those who doubt the origin of the Holy House of Loreto would perhaps have to second guess themselves when presented with evidence of its middle eastern origin. When the brick and mortar were tested they were found to be made of materials that would be found in Palestine at the time of Jesus, still the same excavated materials found recently. The bricks were proven to be hand chiseled, and the dimensions of the home are 30 x 13 feet, which is exactly consistent with the dimensions of the foundation of houses that show their remains in Nazareth.
So who is Our Lady of Loreto?
Our Lady of Loreto is the title given to Mary as she is remembered in this Holy House, where she herself was conceived without sin.
In 2019 Pope Francis added the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto to the Roman Calendar to be celebrated as an optional memorial on 10 December. Falling within Advent, it is a memorial that calls us to meditate on the Incarnation and how we await the birth of Christ. Being just two days after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we are able to continue to consider the love God had for his mother when, through Christ’s death on the Cross, he spared her from original sin. We, too, are invited to love her as our mother and to turn to her in all our needs. Thinking of Our Lady in this house, we can’t help but also think of the Holy Family, and during this year dedicated to St. Joseph, to think of him, and how this was the house in which he lived and died. May the Holy Family be an example for us all of true love and family life.
The Litany of Loreto
The popular “Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary” was originally called the “Litany of Loreto.” In this beautiful prayer, Our Blessed Mother is invoked under many titles. This year on the Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto, why not pray this litany and spend some time pondering the miraculous, yet hidden, events that took place in the Holy House that is now safely ensconced in marble in the small Italian town, thanks to God’s Divine Providence, and some angels.