The shell of Loreto’s Holy House: a casing of beauty for a heart of faith
Once brought to Loreto, Mary’s plain house was nestled inside a sumptuous marble shell, the masterpiece of a Renaissance genius. Pope Julius II had it designed by Donato Bramante in 1509, but it took no less than seventy years to complete it – employing the talent of Andrea Sansovino, Ranieri Nerucci, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and many others artists.
The precious 1500s’ casing features geometrical decorations, columns with Corinthian capitals, and an overhanging cornice; it protects a modest Palestinian abode from two thousand years ago: the home where Mary lived in Nazareth, which according to recent archaeology researchers was disassembled in the late 13th century and moved to Marche – after a short stop in Croatia – by the Crusaders, after their expulsion from the Holy Land by the Muslims.
The three low sandstone brick walls that surrounded Mary when the Archangel Gabriel announced her divine maternity are now protected by “Glories of the Madonna’s Life on Earth”, sibyls, and prophets carved in marble.
This magnificent, refined white cloak harbors the humble heart of the home that once witnessed the Annunciation.