What we admire today are different chapels’ architectures which
make each Sacred Mounts unique and special: they are in fact the result of distinct long historical building periods and evolutions.
In the diverse environmental realities in which Sacred Mounts rose, notwithstanding complexes had been built following equal type frames,
they always have different layouts and styles.
Sometimes Sacred Mounts construction needed to be stopped because of the lack of adequate financial resources to reach founder’s objectives
and aims; these interruptions caused sort of frames and shapes stratifications in all complexe aspects, both on a large scale, that is in
environment and urban spaces, and on a small scale, that is in architecture and artistical contents.
The Sacred Mount of Varallo, evocatively known as new Jerusalem, is considered the first original model of this artistic and
religious phenomenon and, with its urban setting and architecture, more than any others exemplifies the distinct historical phases and
the religious motivations which, between the late XV and the first half of XVII century, led to the construction of many religious complexes.
Its founder, friar Bernardino Caimi, in 1481 had the idea of realizing special devotional places which reproduced in the West all Jerusalem
Holy Places. His planning choices were therefore essentially aimed to represent religious contents through painting and sculptures more than
to build unique shapes, so, instead of too remarkable or stylistically special architectural elements, he preferred to follow a formal franciscan simplicity.
In fact the buildings which rose during the first New Jerusalem foundation period, probably projected by Caimi, are very simple and were
realized through the grouping of small edifices, adapted and set throughout the landscape without changing them too much. Following this
spirit of adaptation to the chosen location, the first buildings were built with traditional techniques: plastered stones walls and slate
covering roofs, as from traditional mountain architecture of Valsesia.
Always standing the original aims to make an accurate copy of the Holy Places of Christ’s Life and Passion, Caimi promoted the contruction
of what is considered “the Nativity core” that is composed of five of the most beautiful scenes of Jesus’ Life, and of the “core of
Saint Joseph’s Dream”. For both scenes he decided to let painters following their fancies, in particular Gaudenzio Ferrari, more then
relying on architects: he just preferred the extraordinary religious and artistical messages that would have derived from the
suggestive scenes setting within chapels.