In 1881, Samuel Butler published Alps and Sanctuaries, intending to reveal to the England of his period the "pre-alpino" territory of the Sacred Mounts. The Italy the author described was not the one of museums, cathedrals and art galleries, but that of those little mountain churches and chapels that are scattered on the slopes of the Sacred Mounts.
To Samuel Butler, in modern times, we owe, without question, the most incisive action of international promotion and study of the Sacred Mounts.
In his book Alpi e Santuari, in a route that stretches from the Sacra di San Michele to the Sanctuary of Oropa, from the Sacred Mount of Varese to Arona and from the Sacred Mount of Varallo to the Sanctuary of Crea, Samuel Butler brings to light the distinctive "realistic" effectiveness of the art of the Sacred Mounts, as it was interpreted with results of the highest quality by great artists, like Gaudenzio Ferrari, Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli known as «il Morazzone», Tanzio da Varallo, Jean de Wespin called «il Tabachetti», Giuseppe Bernascone called «il Mancino», and many others.
The most important aspect of the work lies in the "realistic" cut with which the author orients his approach to understand the world of the Sacred Mounts. Important, too, is how he pointed out this "realistic" key as the principal value of these works of art. Butler's choice to enter directly into contact with the "popular" reality of the "pre-alpine" world is converted into many experiences of how the "theatrical and mystical" representations of the chapels of the Sacred Mounts are lived by the "population" of believers, believers who became pilgrims along the same paths that the author untiringly followed. Thus, the English writer observes a sort of "live" experiment of the effects of these works of art on the people. This allows him to sense and to interpret the "realistic" intent that characterised those men who promoted and realised those works of art. It is important, therefore, to recognise that a feature of particular interest when we read the memoirs of Samuel Butler in the Alps and at the sanctuaries of the "pre-alpine" world, is his meeting with the "the people" who populate in various ways, and on various occasions these monuments.