Summer Series: The Pious Establishments of France in Italy (6)

August 08, 2022
Facade of the National Chapel of France in Loreto

The primary vocation of this institution, in accordance with the testamentary provisions of its numerous legatees, is to maintain the religious communities which serve its five churches (community of St. Louis, convent and rectorate of the Trinité des Monts, the national chapel of France in Loreto). Sixth part: The National Chapel of France in Loreto.

The National Chapel of France in Loreto

Since the legacy of Cardinal de Joyeuse, ambassador of King Henry IV to the Holy See, and Queen Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII, the Pious Establishments of France in Rome and Loreto have had a foundation in Loreto .

This possession is now comprised of a house in the city center and a few hectares of land in the surrounding area.

This makes it possible to maintain a permanent French chapel near this Marian sanctuary where the “Santa Casa” is located, the house where the Virgin Mary received the Annunciation from the Archangel Gabriel.

The “Holy House” was transferred in several stages, from Nazareth to Loreto (December 10, 1294) passing through Tersatto in Dalmatia (May 10, 1291).

The Sanctuary of Loreto

The sanctuary consists of the Basilica of the Holy House, built in the 15th century, which houses the House of Nazareth. Due to the fact that, God deigned to gratify Western Christendom with a great blessing when, to compensate for the loss of the Holy Sepulcher, He miraculously transported to Catholic land the humble and august house in which the Virgin Mary received the message of the Angel, and where, by the consent of this exquisite Mother of God, the Word became flesh and began to dwell among us.

The Story of the Miracle

It was under the Pontificate of Celestine V, in 1291, and when the Christians had completely lost the Holy Places of Palestine, that the little house, in which took place the mystery of the Incarnation in the womb of Mary, was transported by the Angels from Nazareth in Dalmatia or Sclavonia, on a small mountain called Tersato.

After three years and seven months, in 1294, the holy house was transported across the Adriatic Sea to the territory of Recanati, in a forest belonging to a Lady called Loreto. This event threw the peoples of Dalmatia into such desolation that they seemed unable to survive it. To console themselves, they built, on the same ground, a church consecrated to the Mother of God

This new transfer caused so much noise in Christendom that an innumerable multitude of pilgrims came from almost all over Europe to Recanati, in order to honor the House thereafter known as Loreto. God renewed the prodigy of the translation: the House was transferred, in 1295, to a place not far away, and in the middle of the public road where it remained, and where the town called Loreto has since been built.

Archaeological Evidence

The analysis of Italian archaeologists and architects led to the conclusion that the Holy House:

– is built of two types of limestone found in Nazareth, but not in Loreto and Marche – as is the case of the “altar of the apostles”;

– the mortar between the stones is typical of 1st century Palestine, but not of Italy;

– the graffiti on the walls are similar and contemporary to those discovered at the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth;

– the “house” has no foundation, sits directly on uncleared dusty ground containing snail shells, acorns and a dried nut, and even stands on top of a thorny bush;

– the “house” with three walls corresponds exactly to the dimensions of the foundations dug in front of the grotto of Nazareth, and those of the “missing” wall therefore correspond to the grotto;

– the Holy House is placed partly on a public road connecting Recanati to Porto Recanati, its appearance obliging the magistrates of Recanati to build a diversion from the road – this renders an intentional construction in such a place improbable.

National Chapel of France in Loreto, interior