Varallo Things to Do
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Christian Pop Art Takes the Stage in the Alps
The Sacred Mountain of Varallo is a triumph of "total art" at the service of the faith. Architects, sculptors, painters, scenographers, have reproduced the life of Jesus in 45 chapels on the mountain.
Christian art between liturgical rite and nature
by Timothy Verdon
The chapels in the middle of the woods of the Sacred Mountain of Varallo invite to reflection not only on the subjects that are represented – for the most part episodes from the Old and New Testament – but, in a broader way, on the role that architecture and art have in the history of Christian spirituality.
The paths up the mountain, the difficulty of the ascent, the arrival at chapels connected by galleries and arranged around piazzas: everything echoes biblical themes like the journey, the ascent, the city of God, while the Assumption of Mary and the basilica where the pilgrimage is completed evokes the universal aspiration for an otherworldly destination.
In an analogous way, the naturalism of the figures visible among the trees – the realism of the faces and gestures of these actors of clay – suggests a primordial connection between man and nature, opening within religious reflection a fascinating and mysterious anthropological horizon.
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From its natural terrace you can enjoy a view of the whole area, from Bassa Valsesia to Monte Fenera.
In the North-West it is possible to see in the background the massif of Mt. Rosa.
The Sacro Monte was created by architects (G. Alessi, B. Alfieri), painters, and sculptors (G. Ferrari, Giovanni D'Enrico, Tanzio da Varallo, E. Prestinari, the Morazzone).
The devotional complex was founded in 1491 and it is the oldest of the Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) and the most important one from the artistic and religious point of view.
The area lying within the sacred fence is divided into two well-distinct areas.
- The first is rich in plants and green, and it is organized like a garden dotted by the presence of various chapels.
- The second area is situated on the top, preceded by the Porta Aurea, and it is made up of small buildings full of porticoes facing the two squares of Tempio (the religious square) and Tribunali (the civil square), in the attempt to repropose the town of Jerusalem.
There's a nice icecream store, near the market square. If you like cinnamon, be sure to try the panna ghiacciata alla cannella (which is only served on a cup)
The best way to get to Varallo is by taking the train from Novara. It's awfully slow, but the one hour journey crosses a natural park with herons and other birds, so the sights make up for the lack of speed of the old diesel train.
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Favorite thing: Some useful links:
Comune di VARALLO
Info about VARALLO from Wikipedia
about the SACRED MOUNT
The Sacred Mount of VARALLO
Info about the SACRED MOUNT
Info about the Riserva Naturale Speciale del Sacro Monte di Varallo
some nice pictures of the Sacro Monte di Varallo
Favorite thing: You can either walk or take the cableway. The walk starts from Santa Maria delle Grazie, takes about half an hour and will make you sweat if it's summertime.. but you'll save some coins and you'll also cross a couple of nice chapels.
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