Same Stone in Loreto Altar, Nazareth Grotto
The Holy House of Loreto is a small
house in a small town in Italy, which many Christians believe is the
house where Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived when they were in Nazareth. For
centuries, many have believed at angels, following God's orders, moved
it from Nazareth to Loreto.
The house, actually more of a hut, was
in the news last month. A study of stone of the altar in the Holy House
of Loreto showed that it came from the same place as the stones used to
build the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Nanni Monelli,
architect, and Father Giuseppe Santarelli, director of the General
Congregation of the Holy House of Loreto, headed the study.
This will probably start another round
of debate over what the House of Loreto is, where it came from, and how
it got to its present location.
The Vatican takes the House of Loreto
seriously. The author of a book on the Holy House, Giorgio Nicolini,
told the Zenit News Agency that there wasn't any doubt about whether the
Holy House of Loreto was Mary's true Nazarene House, except for "those
who are not acquainted with the secular studies in this respect; so much
so that, for seven centuries, all the Supreme Pontiffs confirmed the
authenticity with solemn canonical acts of 'approval.'"
There's quite a story behind how the
Holy House got to where it is today.
The Roman emperor Constantine had a
Basilica built over the house in 312, leaving the Holy Family's home in
an underground chamber. That may have helped save the House of Loreto
from destruction when the Seljukian Turks invaded the Holy Land in 1090.
A handful of pilgrims helped keep
veneration of the Holy House alive until the first Crusaders liberated
Nazareth and built a new Basilica around 1100. The kingdom set up by the
crusades didn't go as well as the original crusaders had hoped, and the
new Basilica was destroyed in 1263. The Holy House in its underground
chamber survived and heirs of the Crusaders won that conflict, but the
Christians were forced to leave in 1291. Given the Muslim victors. habit
of destroying Christian holy sites that weren't useful to them, the Holy
House wasn't likely to last long.
During the night of May 10, 1291,
shepherds near Tersatto, in what is now Croatia, noticed a hut that
hadn't been there when they were last in the area. A new hut isn't that
odd by itself, but this one was half on a field and half on a road. That
part of the hut hovered over the road. Inside, they smelled a heavenly
incense: not surprising in a place that had housed the Mystical Rose who
bloomed from the root of Jesse.
Inside, the shepherds found an old
altar, a statue of Mary, and a crucifix. They brought in the local
priest, who couldn't understand what the hut was doing there.
He prayed for hours for an explanation,
no small effort for an old man with severe arthritis. In a dream, Mary
told him that she had been born and raised in the place, and that this
was where she experienced the Annunciation. The altar had been brought
and consecrated by the apostle Peter, and the whole house brought to its
present location by the power of God. She told him that proof of what
she said was be that he would be healed.
When he woke up, his arthritis was
gone. That was good enough for the priests and local peasants, and they
began venerating this home of their Lord.
On December 10, 1294, angels moved the
house again. This time the move was noticed. On the other side of the
Adriatic Sea, some "happy victims of insomnia" noticed a small house
traveling overhead, and reported what they had seen. Presumably, it was
the same house: unless there was more than one flying hut in the area at
This time the hut landed in Italy,
about four miles from Lecanati in the plain of Banderuolo. The place
became known as a place of miraculous cures. Thousands of people made
pilgrimages there, and attracted bandits. The house moved again.
It didn't stay in its next location
long, a place in Lecanati owned by Antici brothers. The brothers started
fighting: probably over the house. The house moved after eight months of
this, and the brothers patched up their differences.
The Holy House stopped on Loreto hill,
where it still is.
206tours.com, and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Giorgio Nicolini quote is from Zenit.)
one step on the way to being
declared a saint.
(Facts from Associated Press articles
and EWTN (www.ewtn.com).)
Brian H. Gill, Editor,
Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin