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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 that time.

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.

(Facts from News Agency,, 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 (

Brian H. Gill, Editor, Sauk Centre K of C Bulletin

April 2006

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This page last updated December 19, 2010