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 Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls was part of the federal sanctuary of the three Gauls dedicated to the cult of Rome and Augustus celebrated by the 60 Gallic tribes when they gathered at Lugdunum (Lyon). The amphitheatre was built at the foot of the La Croix-Rousse hill at what was then the confluence of the Rhône and Saône.
Excavations have revealed a basement of three elliptical walls linked by cross-walls and a channel surrounding the oval central arena. The arena was slightly sloped, with the building"s south part supported by a now-vanished vault. The arena"s dimensions are 67,6m by 42m. This phase of the amphitheatre housed games which accompanied the imperial cult, with its low capacity (1,800 seats) being enough for delegations from the 60 Gallic tribes.
The amphitheatre was expanded at the start of the 2nd century. Two galleries were added around the old amphitheatre, raising its width from 25 metres to 105 metres and its capacity to about 20,000 seats. In so doing it made it a building open to the whole population of Lugdunum and its environs.