The legend narrates that in 300 d.C., on the top of the Mount of Varese, Saint Ambrogio defeated the last followers of the Arian heresy and donated to the oratory a wooden statue representing theMadonna Nera.
In 1452 Giuliana Puricelli from Busto, Caterina Moriggi from Pallanza and a lot of other sisters chose Santa Maria del Monte as a hermitage place; they spent their lonely and ascetic life sheltered in some caves and they also contributed to the Monastery’s foundation.
In the first years of 1600 the hermit Tecla Maria Cid and the Capuchin friar Giovan Battista Aguggiari planned and realized the Road of the Chapels, a monumental road of more than two kilometres rising to the top of the mountain that symbolizes the human tension to God.
CHURCH OF THE IMMACOLATA CONCEZIONE (1604-1609, restoration 1993)
The Church of the Immacolata Concezione, placed in front of the first arch, is the opening building of Via Sacra. The statue of Maria Immacolata is a work of M. Prestinari and the 14 statues were sculpted by Francesco Silva. The frescoes, in particular “Il Concilio di Trento”, were painted by the Lampugnani brothers (1624). On the right we can see “the Conventino”, house of the Capuchin friars and nowadays private residence at No.14.
THE FIRST ARCH – ARCH OF THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
(1607-1623, restorations 1687-1993)
The first arch of the Rosary represents the Joyful Mysteries. To notice is certainly the statue of theVirgin with Child by C.A. Buono placed between the baroque statues of S. Domenico and S. Francesco. On the right we can find theFountain of the Samaritana.
FIRST CHAPEL – THE ANNUNCIATION
(1605-1609, restoration 1993)
The interior of the chapel reproduces the room of a patrician house of the seventeenth century with a wooden bed, some wool winders, a sideboard and various kits. The internal statues representing the archangel Gabriele and Maria were realized by Cristoforo Prestinari in 1610.
SECOND CHAPEL – THE VISIT OF MARY TO ELISABETH
(1605-1697, restoration 1987)
Francesco Silva realized 12 statues done in terracotta representing Maria who visits her cousin Elisabetta, mother of S. Giovanni Battista. Giovanni Paolo Ghianda worked at the frescoes (1624). On the outside wall we can admire a painted sundial bordered with angels.
THIRD CHAPEL – THE NATIVITY
(?-1623, restoration 1983)
In the third chapel you can admire the famous crib realized by Martino Retti and made up of fourteen statues done in terracotta; Infant Jesus is placed on a real manger of chestnut wood. The frescoes on the walls were painted by Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1658). On the side “The flight into Egypt” by R.Guttuso.
FOURTH CHAPEL – THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS TO THE TEMPLE
(1618-1621, restoration 1987)
Francesco Silva realized 20 statues done in terracotta representing the introduction of Jesus to the priest Simeone. Giovanni Ghisolfi worked at the frescoes; the most important one is certainly “Il Cielo con Dio e gli Angeli” (1662).
FIFTH CHAPEL – THE DISCUSSION OF JESUS WITH THE DOCTORS
(1607-1654, restoration 1992)
Francesco Silva realized 22 statues representing the discussion between Jesus and the Doctors in Gerusalemme’s Temple. Nuvolone worked at the frescoes: to remember are certainly “Visione dell’Apocalisse” and “L’arca dell’Alleanza”.
THE SECOND ARCH – ARCH OF THE MYSTERIES OF SUFFERING, consecrated to San Carlo
The arch of San Carlo was built with living rock from Brenno Useria. The statue of the Holy Cardinal is more than two metres high; realized by Carlo Antonio Buono in 1651, now it’s placed on the top of the building.
SIXTH CHAPEL – JESUS PRAYING IN THE GARDEN
(1606-? restoration 1998)
Francesco Silva realized 9 statues representing Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. The frescoes on the walls were painted by Bartolomeo Ghiandone. To remember is also the sinister statue of Judas.
THE CAVE OF THE BLISSFUL CATERINA AND GIULIANA
It’s the reproduction of the cave where Caterina Moriggi and Giuliana Puricelli went on retreat.
The two statues were realized by Francesco Silva.
SEVENTH CHAPEL – THE FLAGELLATION OF JESUS CHRIST
(1606-1609, restoration 1988)
It reproduces the Mystery of Flagellation. To represent the harrowing scene Martino Retti realized and moulded 8 statues.To notice are certainly the three big frescoes painted by Morazzone: “Cristo davanti a Caifa”, “Cristo e Barabba mostrati al popolo” and “Cristo spogliato e trascinato alla flagellazione” (1609).
EIGHTH CHAPEL – JESUS CROWNED WITH THORNS
(?-1623, restoration 1986)
Francesco Silva realized 10 statues done in terracotta representing Jesus crowned with thorns. The frescoes on the walls were painted by the brothers Gianbattista and Gianpaolo Recchi, disciples of Morazzone (1648).
NINTH CHAPEL – JESUS CLIMBS THE CALVARY
(?-1623, restoration 1986)
Francesco Silva realized 20 statues representing the Ascent to Calvary . The frescoes on the walls were painted by Gianpaolo Recchi (1654). On the outside wall you can admire the “Ecce Homo” realized by Stefano Legnani.
TENTH CHAPEL – THE CRUCIFIXION
(?-1623, restoration 1985)
Dionigi Bussola realized 50 statues done in terracotta representing the Crucifixion. To notice are the imposingCrossandthe Three Maries. Antonio Busco worked at the frescoes. In the Easter period we can see a ray of the sun illuminating the body of Jesus at about 3 p.m, time of His dead; in the sunset only the face is in the sun light.
THE THIRD ARCH – ARCH OF THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES, consecrated to Sant’Ambrogio
The third arch introduces to the Glorious Mysteries. The statue of Sant’Ambrogio is placed on the top of the arch. On the right you can find a fountain of drinking water.
ELEVENTH CHAPEL – THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
(?-1622, restoration 1991)
Francesco Silva realized 9 statues representing the Resurrection.Isidoro Bianchi worked at the frescoes; to remember are “Il Paradiso” and “Apparizioni di Gesù a Maria, a Maddalena e agli Apostoli”.
TWELFTH CHAPEL – THE ASCENSION OF JESUS TO HEAVEN
(1624-1633, restoration 1989)
In 1632 Francesco Silva realized 16 big statues, 17 angels of smaller size and 33 high relieves of cherubs. To notice are the big statues representing San Pietro and Sant’Antonio.
THIRTEENTH CHAPEL – DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
(1623-1684, restoration 1990)
Francesco Silva realized 15 statues done in terracotta representing the Descent of the Holy Spirit. The upper frescoes are by the brothers Grandi and the lower ones are by F. Bianchi.
FOURTEENTH CHAPEL – THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN TO HEAVEN
(?-1610, restoration 1990)
Francesco Silva realized 13 statues representing Mary’s Assumption; the Apostles are arranged around an empty urn and the Blessed Virgin Mary is hanging in the air.
THE FOUNTAIN OF THE MOSE’
To reach the last chapel, placed into the Sanctuary, you must go beyond thefountain of The Mosè, planned by the architect Francesco Argenti from Viggiù. The statue, placed in the middle of the fountain, was realized by Gaetano Monti from Ravenna (1831).
FIFTEENTH CHAPEL – THE VIRGIN MARY GLORIFIED AND CROWNED IN HEAVEN
(1660, restoration 1982)
The statue of the Virgin Mary is placed on the high altar of the Sanctuary. Covered with a precious cloth and with the Child in her lap, Mary is crowned by two silver angels (1400).