UNESCO World Heritage Committee, in occasion of its twenty-seventh session held in Paris from the 30th June to 5th July 2003, has put twenty-four new sites on the World Heritage List: among them the site called Sacred Mounts of Piedmont and Lombardy, proposed by Regione Piemonte, by Piedmont Regional Service and by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, in co-operation with Lombardy Regional Service, Regione Lombardia and with the civil and religious Authorities concerned. This acknowledgment is the conclusion of a work started in 1999 by the Department for Protected Areas and Museums Planning and the Department for Cultural Heritage of Regione Piemonte, by the Piedmont Regional Service and by the standing Working Group for UNESCO World Heritage List, set up in the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.
In 2001 the delegation of experts of the International Monuments and Sites Council (the ICOMOS) made on-the-spot investigations and meetings in all the Sacred Mounts of the proposed site; the evaluations of the above delegation underlines the importance of the systematic plan that led to the realization of such different religious complexes, that are linked among them within a defined cultural and territorial landscape.
Through documents and pictures of architectures, figurative arts and landscapes, the exhibit path shows the origin and the development of Sacred Mounts. These particular places and pilgrimage routes rose between the end of the XV and the first half of the XVII century in the northest part of the present Italy. The particularity of this religious and artistic phenomenon is here illustrated by a parallel approach to nine remarkable complexes that were built within the Alpine arc of the italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy.
First of all a 'Sacred Mount' consists in an itinerary which goes through isolated buildings, such as chapels, characterized by a particular architectural design, and within which life-size terracotta statues, in pictorial settings, tell either Bible or Gospel's facts belonging to Rosary's chronology, or the lives of Saints.
Sacred Mounts are examples of the use of figurative arts for evangelizing mankind: with sacrifices and troubles we follow a way to reach a Chosen and privileged place, it's a walk of penance and proposed meditation on the painful Jesus Christ's path through the streets of Jerusalem towards Golgotha, place of His Passion and of our redemption. As all figurative arts preserved within churches have always been useful means of communication to acculturate illitterate people, pilgrimages to Sacred Mounts had became educational moments, a particular form of visual catechism. Those within-chapels-represented scenes were therefore a Bible for poor and plain people, for those who were not able to read but who had eyes to see.
Nowadays Sacred Mounts - as pointed out by exhibition's photographs - are still sort of living organisms in which intimately merge culture and nature; you can here find you not only experience very high level artistic contemplation, but rediscover to be able to watch with simple people naturalness and faith. For this reason some complexes have been changed into Protected Areas of Regione Piemonte and, on July the 3rd 2003, the nine Sacred Mounts of Piedmont and Lombardy illustrated in the exhibition have been put on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.