Sanctuary of Oropa

Biella, Italy

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.

Devotion and popular beliefs

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.



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Oropa, Biella, Italy
See all sites in Biella


Founded: 17th century
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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User Reviews

Gurjeet Singh (7 months ago)
???Sanctuary of Oropa UNESCO HERITAGE This is a Marian Sanctuary - dedicated to the Black Madonna - located just over a dozen north of the city of Biella, in the hamlet of Oropa, at about 1,200 meters above sea level, in a spectacular natural amphitheater of mountains that surround the underlying city and are part of the Biellese Alps. The Sanctuary complex includes, in addition to the Sacro Monte di Oropa (about twenty minutes on foot going up to the left of the Sanctuary, and the original church (Basilica Antica) built in 1600 on the basis of an ancient shrine and the actual Sanctuary itself, equipped with various structures intended for the hospitality of faithful and tourists. It is possible to admire the interiors of the Ancient Basilica, the Gothic statue of the Black Madonna, the walkways, the various displays of nativity scenes from all over the world (some located in the crypt), and the majestic new church, characterized by a large dome visible in large part of the Biella area. A gem at the beginning of the square in front of the entrance to the religious complex is the presence of a train carriage, as a reminder of the Biella-Oropa tramway, abolished in 1958 which for over 40 years transported pilgrims and faithful to the Sanctuary. . . . . . . . More information follow me Gurjeet singh ?
Thomas Erlebach (8 months ago)
Fantastic location. Great food, comfortable rooms, beautiful surroundings.
Enrique NYC Madrid (2 years ago)
Great place to visit. I strongly suggest to spend one night in the hotel. The dinner offered by the hotel is also very good and authentic. The staff of the hotel and restaurante are extremely nice and professional.
Azreena Azizan (2 years ago)
This holy place is situated on the Biellese Alps. It is still operated during the Covid-19, and if you are visiting around this time, it is cold and snowing still. Don't forget to get your tokens (€2 per token)...there are 2 options to choose from as memorabilia.
Niklas Thulin (4 years ago)
Beautiful place. Had a few days of reflection and relaxation at the sanctuary. Took a walk up the alp to the top one day, good trails and decent difficulty. Fantastic views everywhere you look. Nice and simple rooms. Good restaurants at the place and also a few other good ones some 10 min walk away.
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