......, Lately the religious aspect became more and more evident. In the first half of the 15th century, the Sanctuary became an active centre of spiritual life and groups of anchorites settled in the mountain spending their lives inpraying and fasting.
In 1452, the blessed Caterina Moriggia da Pallanza retreated to live a monastic life nearby the Sanctuary. Many sisters followed her example. The first one was the blessed Giuliana Puricelli da Verghera. The blessed Caterina, then, became the first abbess of the Convent which was built in 1476 according to the rule of Sant' Ambrogio ad Nemus. .......
An ancient document dating back to 922, indicates that the Church of Santa Maria "sited on Mount Vellate" gave its name to the Sacro Monte over Varese. Presumably the area became a military site in the Roman Age, keeping on this peculiarity for centuries.
However, since ages the Sacro Monte has been a sacred place for all the Lombard people. Its historic-religious importance originates from the first half of the 115th century when Sant' Ambrogio set up the first altar on the mountain in thanks of his victory over the Arians. It is claimed that on the same occasion Sant' Ambrogio gave the wooden statue of the "Black" Virgin to the little oratory.
This is the passage under the sanctuary which leads to the small square where Museo Baroffio and the main entrance to the church are situated. The passage is about hundred meters long and it looks very mysterious.
Nearby the church, in the little Museo (Museum) Baroffio housing the ancient art collection of the Sanctuary and the works given by the Baron Baroffio Dall'Aglio, founder of the Museum in 1929.
This beautiful little hotel is situated just a foot from the church and Museo Baroffio. There is a kind of underground portico which leads from the church right to the hotel.
The hotel alone is situated on the fantastic spot from where you have a magnificient view at the town of Varese and its surroundings.
On 2nd November 1984, in the fourth centennial of San Carlo Borromeo's death, the Pope John Paul II, visited the Sacro Monte to celebrate that great figure of the Ambrosian Church. In honour of that event, the people of Sacro Monte built the statue of the Pope which stands on the little square in front of the sanctuary.
The road and the sidewalk on the southwestern side of the place which leads downhill to the funicular of Sacro Monte and the main parking area.