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The Sanctuary of Oropa: how to get there and info for the visit

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The Sanctuary of Oropa is currently the largest Marian shrine in the Alps.

Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site together with the Sacro Monte di Oropa in 2003, the Sanctuary of Oropa is an imposing, fascinating and unique complex.

The structure develops around the two main cloisters that seem to embrace the visitor in a loving and protective manner.

This is probably the feeling that pilgrims, travelling from the mountains of France to Rome, felt when they crossed the threshold of the Sanctuary in search of refreshment.

Once through the entrance, one cannot help but be open-mouthed by the majesty of the entire complex.

In the first cloister, you can find bars, restaurants and small shops selling mainly souvenirs.

Through a flight of steps, one reaches the second cloister where the majestic Basilica Antica makes its appearance.

Famous inside is the Gothic statue of the Black Madonna, which, according to tradition, was brought by St Eusebius from Palestine in the 4th century AD.

Climbing a further flight of steps, one finally reaches the last courtyard and the Basilica Nuova, consecrated in 1960.

The dome of the Basilica, 80 metres above the ground, was created to accommodate both pilgrims and the Black Madonna .

The Black Madonna was never actually moved because it became, inexplicably, too heavy.

Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there

Sanctuary of Oropa: how to get there

The Sanctuary of Oropa: how to get there.

By car

The Sanctuary of Oropa is located in the Biellese Alps about 13 kilometres north-west of the city of Biella, at an altitude of 1,159 metres.

Getting to Oropa is easy: from Biella, take the SP144 and continue along Via Santuario d’Oropa.

In total, it is about 25 minutes.

The road, especially in the last stretch, has a few bends but is wide and does not require any particular attention.

In front of the sanctuary, there is a large free car park.

By bus

From the Biella S. Paolo FS train station, bus No. 360 departs to the Sanctuary of Oropa in about 40 minutes (25 stops). Timetable here.

Where to park your camper van at the Sanctuary of Oropa

In Piazzale Funivie, on the opposite side of the entrance to the Sanctuary of Oropa, there is acamper van parking area with loading/unloading and free hot shower.

To access it, you must collect your badge from the reception point inside the Sanctuary (turn right immediately after the iron gate).

If you plan to arrive at night, call the reception desk during opening hours to get the mobile phone number of the Sanctuary night watchman (who can give you your badge).

The history of the Sanctuary of Oropa

According to tradition, the Sanctuary of Oropa was founded in the 4th century by Saint Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli.

Although the first written evidence of its actual existence only dates back to 1200, it is certain that it was Eusebius who spread Christianity in the Biellese valleys where almost the entire population was still pagan.

Sanctuary of Oropa underwent several extensions and modifications over the centuries, as rooms had to be built to accommodate the ever increasing number of pilgrims.

The construction of a third cloister was also considered, to enclose the courtyard in front of the New Basilica, but it was never completed.

The main cloister

Once through the large iron gate and up the first flight of steps, one arrives at the main cloister.

Admire the walls of the access door to the cloister, where memorial plaques are affixed in honour of people who have passed through the Sanctuary in the past.

Among them is Guglielmo Marconi, who drew the inspiration for the invention of the telegraph from the Sanctuary of Oropa.

Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there
entrance
fountain

Burnell Fountain or Ladle Fountain

Continuing on, we find the Burnell Fountain from which cassuij, or iron ladles, hang, by means of which water can be collected and quenched.

The water comes from the Maggia spring located at the foot of Monte Mucrone, northwest of the Basilica Nuova.

The second cloister is surrounded by a long colonnade and, on the right, is the Basilica Antica.

Ancient Basilica

Basilica Antica is the church housing the wooden statue of the Black Madonna of Oropa to whom numerous miracles are attributed.

The statue was made in the early 14th century by the so-called Maestro della Madonna di Oropa, a sculptor from Valle d’Aosta with an unknown name.

Basilica Antica was built as a vow by the city of Biella that had been spared the plague epidemic of 1599.

Built in contact with the rock, the Basilica was completed in 1620.

In addition to the Madonna, there are many frescoes and works inside, and the Eusebian Sacellum, which dates back to the Church of Santa Maria that stood before the basilica.

On the left side of the sacellum, there are three commemorative plaques testifying to the three miracles certified by the Church to the Madonna of Oropa.

ancient basilica
oropa

Gallery of Ex-Votos

To access the Ex-Voto Gallery, one must walk up the steps on the right side of the Old Basilica.

One is truly impressed by the multitude of baby rosettes, crutches and paintings of various sizes, evidence of miraculous births, escaped deaths and prodigious healings that the faithful attribute to the Black Madonna of Oropa.

Museum of the Treasures of Oropa

About half way down the second gallery, you can enter the Museum of the Treasures of Oropa.

Here you can admire priestly vestments from the Sanctuary and precious jewellery, including the Crown Jewels, used for the centenary coronation of the statue of the Black Madonna.

You can also admire archaeological finds dating back to the 2nd century B.C. and the flats of the Savoys , who financed various extension works.

New Basilica

basilica new
Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there

From the main cloister, one ascends the last flight of steps and arrives at the courtyard over which stands the imposing Basilica Nuova.

The construction of the Basilica Nuova began at the end of the 19th century.

The foundation stone was laid in 1885 and work was only partially completed in 1960.

Its scenic 80-metre-high dome is visible in much of the Biella area.

The project, drawn up more than a century earlier, is by architect Ignazio Galletti.

Exhibition of cribs

Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there
Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there

If you are visiting the Sanctuary of Oropa, you cannot miss the exhibition of cribs and dioramas in the side rooms of the Basilica Nuova.

This is a permanent exhibition showcasing a collection of nativity scenes from all over the world.

You can admire the colourful Peruvian cribs, German cribs made of wood, African cribs made of banana leaves, and much more.

In all, there are about 50 nativity scenes.

Next to the exhibition of cribs, you will find the display ofdioramas inside glass cases.

The dioramas depict the life of Christ, from the annunciation to his death and resurrection.

The origin of the dioramas is unknown but it is thought that they were created to illustrate the life of Christ to the illiterate population.

Where to sleep

The Sanctuary provides some rooms for those who wish to stay overnight.

Otherwise, there are several hotels and rooms to rent in the surrounding area.

Il Gomitolo offers a comfortable, spacious and well-maintained one-room apartment with an excellent breakfast included. Free parking a few metres away – book here.

Information for visiting the Sanctuary of Oropa with children

The visit to the Sanctuary of Oropa is accessible to pushchairs thanks to a system of lifts and paved roads that allow you to avoid the steps.

The visit is also interesting for children , who will certainly be impressed by the majesty of the structure.

Our 4-year-old daughter really enjoyed the exhibition of cribs.

Sanctuary of Oropa how to get there

Opening times and rates at the Sanctuary of Oropa

For the opening times, which change from month to month, I suggest you have a look at the official website.

In the event of snow, the museum may be closed.

You can check when it is open by calling 39 015 25551200.

The entrance fee to the museum is €4.00 for adults, €3.00 for children 6-14, free of charge 0-6.

Admission to the Basilicas and the exhibition of cribs is free of charge.

The Sanctuary of Oropa: how to get there and info for the visit. Conclusions

I recommend a visit to the Sanctuary of Oropa even for those who are not particularly religious because you will be truly bewitched by the grandeur of the structure, the atmosphere, and the beauty of the surrounding landscape .

If, like us, you go in winter you can find snow that makes the scenery even more impressive.

In summer, on the other hand, the Oropa Valley offers a variety of possibilities for those who wish to take beautiful walks in nature.

Continue reading:

1. Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte

2. Sanctuary of Montallegro

3. Visiting Biella

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