The house of the Holy Family is where Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph lived for a time in Galilee. It’s also believed to be the place where the Incarnation took place!
The house was miraculously moved or “translated” from Galilee to Loreto, Italy where it is today. Many Pontiffs, Doctors of the Church, and saints acknowledge this house in Loreto as the true Holy House. But many skeptics remain. .
In his new book, The House of the Virgin Mary, Godfrey E. Phillips tells the miraculous tale of this Holy House and the history of its veneration. Here are five facts you need to know about the House of the Holy Family!
1. Saint Helen built a shrine over the Holy House in the 4th Century
As per tradition and other practices of preserving holy places in her time, Saint Helen built a shrine over the Holy House and preserved it. The saintly queen also established a shrine on the Mount of Olives!
Previous to this, the Holy House had been set aside by the Apostles for sacred usage after Our Lord’s Ascension. The Shrine was then preserved with help from the Saracens who, instead of destroying holy sites, made an income by charging Christians to retain them.
2. Many saints made pilgrimages to the Holy House
There are historical accounts of Christians making pilgrimage to the Holy House to venerate it and its former inhabitants. Most famous among these pilgrims were Saint Francis of Assisi who visited in 1220 and Saint Louis, king of France, who made a pilgrimage to the Holy House on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1251.
At the time, the shrine Saint Helen built there had largely been destroyed. However, the Holy House still stood. Crusaders had built over top it a glorious basilica. Twelve years after Saint Louis’s visit, the basilica was destroyed. But the Saracens made a truce with the Christians, allowing them to visit it.
It was then discovered that, though the great church had been mostly destroyed and ransacked, the actual sanctuary in the crypt had been preserved.
3. The Holy House was first moved from Nazareth to Illyria (Croatia)
“On the morning of May 10, 1291, on the hill on which stands the little town or village of Tersatto, overlooking the seaport of Fiume, the people were astonished to discover a little building where none had been there the day before,” Phillips writes.
The Holy House had been miraculously translated from Nazareth to the town of Tersatto in present-day Croatia, perhaps overnight! To confirm that this was indeed the true Holy House, the Blessed Virgin appeared to a local man known as Alexander the Bishop.
“Be of good courage, my son! Know that the house which has lately been brought to your land is the same in which I was born and brought up. Here, at the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of all things. Here the Word of the Father became man. After my departure from this world, the Apostles consecrated and adorned it, frequently celebrating Mass there. . . This house, which was therefore so dear to God, and which was held in the highest honor for so many years in Galilee, has now come from Nazareth to your shores, by the power of God, to whom nothing is impossible,” she said to him.
Mary also told the bishop that the altar in the house was consecrated by Peter. The crucifix on the wall was hung by the Apostles, as well. Finally, she mentioned that the cedar Marian statue was made by Saint Luke.
4. The Holy House was moved throughout Loreto before settling to a final resting spot
The Holy House was moved by angels to a laurel grove in Loreto on the morning of December 10, 1294. This was witnessed by shepherds tending their flocks. How fitting that, just as the angels first appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Our Lord, that shepherds would also be the first to witness the translation of the Holy House!
Read more: Holiness and the Family
Eight months later, in August of 1295, the angels again moved the Holy House, but this time to the cliffside in Loreto only a little ways away where it has stood ever since.
5. Two popes were miraculously cured by the intercession of Our Lady at Loreto
In 1464, Pope Pius II wished to embark on a Crusade against the Turks who were trying to destroy all of Christendom. However, he was met with apathy from the Christian princes. This caused him such terrible stress that he developed an illness that would keep him from leading a Crusade.
Pope Pius II prayed to Our Lady and asked that if she returned him to health, he would make an offering of a golden chalice to her at the Holy House in Loreto. As he and his court drew nearer to Loreto, his health began to improve and once he completed his vow, he was cured.
The next cure took place soon after, when the Cardinals were returning to Rome from the Crusade after Pope Pius II died on August 14, 1464. One of the Cardinals contracted the plague and went to the Holy House in Loreto and poured his heart out to Our Lady there, who then appeared to him!
Want to know more about the Holy House? There’s a rich history of what alterations were made to the house, the basilica that was built over it. Each building material also holds a special significance. Find out more by picking up a copy of Godfrey E. Phillips’s book The House of the Virgin Mary!