The Sanctuary of Oropa is a group of Roman Catholic buildings and structures in Oropa, frazione of the municipality of Biella.
According to legend, a black wooden statue of the Virgin Mary carved by Saint Luke was found in Jerusalem by Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, carried to Oropa in the 4th century AD and placed into a small niche in a big boulder. In the Middle Ages, a church was built around the niche housing the statue, and was replaced in the early 17th century with what is known today as the Ancient Basilica. During the following two centuries, several other buildings were added to the complex, including the royal apartments of the House of Savoy, a big library and the Royal Gate, a masterpiece designed by the architect Filippo Juvarra in the 18th century.
The last addition to the sanctuary was the Upper Basilica, a monumental church built between 1885 and 1960 due to the large number of pilgrims visiting Oropa. It can hold 3000 people and its dome is 80 metres high.
In 1617, the complex of the Sacro Monte di Oropa (literally Sacred Mount of Oropa) was built not far from the sanctuary. It is a devotional path now composed of twelve chapels (plus another seven nearby) containing groups of statues representing scenes from the story of the Virgin Mary's life.
A new graveyard was built near the Sacro Monte in the 19th century, for noble families of the Biellese territory to build their family tombs. Some graves have freemason symbols, such as Quintino Sella's.
The statue of the black Madonna has always been venerated; several miracles and protections are attributed to the Virgin of Oropa. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was known for his devotion to the Black Madonna of Oropa.
During the centuries, people made ex-voto (for grace) pictures to thank the Virgin Mary. All of these pictures are still preserved in the sanctuary in the 'ex voto gallery'. The oldest picture dates back to 1522 and was made by painter Bernardino Lanino.
Around 800,000 pilgrims and one-hundred pilgrimages visit the sanctuary each year.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.