The Sacri Monti appeared on the hills of Lombardia and Piemonte to replicate the cult places of Palestine. Between the XV and XVIII century the Turkish presence made pilgrimages to the original cult places really difficult if not impossible. Around year 1400 Sacri Monti appeared in Varallo Sesia (Vercelli) and in San Vivaldo of Piemonte, where San Carlo Borromeo archbishop of Milan wanted to try to avoid protestantism from spreading.
Other Sacri Monti were built following these principles. The Sacro Monte of Crea (Alessandria) dedicated to the life of Jesus and Maria, Orta (Novara) on the theme of San Francesco, Varese which theme is the rosary and Arona, inspired by the life of San Carlo of which today only the 23 meters tall bronze statue “the San Carlone” still exists.
Whilst the Sacro Monte of Varese is under construction, around year 1600 the Sacri Monti of Oropa (Vercelli) dedicated to the black Virgin, of Ossuccio (Como), of Domodossola and Ghiffa (Novara), of Graglia (Vercelli) and of Orselina (Canton Ticino) start appearing. A series of Vie Crucis, as in Valperga Canavese (Torino), in which they have built chapels and stations as in the Sacri Monti. In Brissago, in the Canton Ticino.
Today the most known and well preserved ones are Varallo Sesia and Varese. They are not only an Italian phenomenon. Some comparable itineraries have been built in Portugal, Granada (Spain) and even in Brazil (Minas Gerais). Similar structures have been opened in France, Austria, Germany and Poland.
The Sacri Monti of Piemonte and Lombardia are part of the UNESCO.