Sanctuary of Graglia
The origins of the Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto date back to the beginning of the 17th century, when the local parish priest, Don Nicolao Velotti, decided to transform the Colle di San Carlo (San Carlo’s Hill) into a “Calvary”, emulating what friar Bernardino Caimi had done a century before on the Sacro Monte (the Holy Mountain) at Varallo. A majestic project featuring a temple of considerable dimensions and as many as a hundred chapels with scenes from the life of Jesus represented with life-size statues.
The works, started in 1616, progressed very slowly though, and at the death of Don Velotti the initial fervour for this great achievement subsided, and the project was majorly resized to the idea of building an oratory dedicated to the Madonna della Neve (the Snow Madonna) just outside the village, in the hamlet of Campra.
A new proposal to build a Sanctuary was advanced in 1655. The project was for a grand temple with basic accommodation for pilgrims attached, to be built on the Colle della Divina Bontà (Hill of the Divine Goodness), where there already existed a chapel dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto.
The main promoter of this ambitious project was the Duke Carlo Emanuele II, who appointed Captain Piero Arduzzi, military and civil engineer, to draw the plans for the building. The blessing of the first stone took place on 20th September 1659. Due to the disastrous wars of the following years, the construction was suspended for long periods of time. In 1765 the famous architect Bernardo Antonio was consulted about how to proceed with the works; he injected new vitality into the project, which led to the completion of the structure.
Within a few years the church assumed its present aspect: a 42 x 32 m building in the shape of a Greek cross, culminating in an octagonal dome 38 m high from the ground. The complex has since undergone major extensions and renovation.