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Architectural models
 

The one-hundred and sixty chapels belonging to the elaborated Sacred Mounts whole are generally composed of a central building, with square-, round- or polygon-base. Some have a pronaos or a little front perimetral portico to help pigrims shelter and rest next to devotional scenes. This kind of architectural expressions bore for emulation of the late-renaissance Alessi’s work of Varallo, but were different from place to place for drawing and details.

In Sacred Mounts territorial system, intended as the result of an elaborated emulating system derived from the activity of a restricted group of creators, Varese’s Sacred Mount is unique for its architectural expression and formal completeness. The project by Giuseppe Bernasconi (called the Mancino, that is ‘Left-handed’) in comparison with other complexes had been realized in a short delay of time, with the help of clergy and local nobles. The fourteen baroque chapels built between the 1604 and the 1680 are the largest ones: they aren’t anymore simple mountain buildings but single little temples with different base-shapes and with front porticos, surmounted by domes which let lanterns lights come in.

Dedicated to Saint Francis Life, the twenty chapels set on the hill rising above Orta’s village were built according to the project of the franciscan father Cleto from Castelletto Ticino, who adopted mannerist style or late-renaissance models, or followed local traditions.

The twenty-three chapels set in Crea, originally dedicated to the Life of Our Lady, Madonna, have an architectural layout which suits to the rustico wood environment instead of pointing out the architectural style.
Most of them are set following an axe that is ortogonal in respect of the itinerary; they have little porticos which give a sort of rythm to the procession path by signalling to pilgrims the next devotional step. Only the last chapel, called Heaven’s chapel and considered a sort of visual referrement to the Sacred Mount itself, distinguishes itself from the others for type and dimension: two converging stairs lead to the summit of the hill to a big cylindric double-height building characterized by the presence of a portico; this building too was built on the Alessi’s model, already adopted in Varallo, Orta and then in Oropa.


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Excerpts from:
F. Fontana, R. Lodari, P. Sorrenti, Luoghi e vie di pellegrinaggio. I Sacri Monti del Piemonte e della Lombardia , 2004, published by Centro di Documentazione dei Sacri Monti, Calvari e Complessi devozionali europei.

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