Sacro Monte di Orta, Sacred Mountain of Orta on the western shore of Lake Orta, Northern Italy, was the main reason that we were visiting in September 2018. Beyond the lush gardens and residences that mark the hill rising behind Orta is a kind of parallel ‘town’ – the Sacro Monte, where 20 small chapels dedicated to St Francis of Assisi dot the hillside. The views down to the lake are captivating, and meandering from chapel to chapel is a wonderfully tranquil way to pass a few hours. The chapels have, in total, 376 human-scale statues in painted terracotta and large fresco cycles which narrate the events in the life of Saint Francis from his birth to his sainthood. Alongside the sculptures, large fresco cycles further narrate events in the life of the holy Franciscan father.
I must explain that at the time of our visit, I had the cold from hell and really found walking very difficult…..but my husband had gone to a lot of effort to surprise me with this trip, so I just had to struggle on. I just took it very slowly and in the end I did make it to the top and into as many chapels that I could. The chapels to begin with, looked dark and it was difficult to see anything……until I took my photos with the flash on, and then a whole colourful world opened up, but only when you looked at the photos, otherwise the scenes were just a murky outline. Some of the wire mesh that secured the scenes, the gaps were very small and I couldn’t take any photos, but some I could poke the lens of the camera through the larger mesh, and some were just hit and miss….but on the whole not too bad for working in the dark. I found it amazing how old the statues were and how lifelike they are. I have added information boards to each of the chapels, just hope that I have the them the correct way round. The first photos are of the trip up to the chapels, we started from the church we had visited and then made our way by footpaths behind the houses……much more interesting then going the normal way up the road…..to be truthful, we got a bit lost, its like a rabbit warren.
I’m not sure if I got twenty chapels, so it will be interesting to see how many I did get (I think it was 15) We also visited the church at the very top of the hill, but that will come later. The is a Unesco World Heritage Site and there are other buildings in the surrounding hills that are also interesting, but we only had time for this one….this time.
I think the above chapel, is number one and it’s used as an information centre, with a small layout of a biblical scene. There are also wonderful views over looking the lake.
After visiting the church, we made our way back down to Orta, and then we were off to our next destination, another lake, this time Lake Como, passing Lake Lugano.