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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Sacred Mount of Crea

Sacred Mount of Crea

Serralunga di Crea, (Alessandria), ITALY



The Sacro Monte rises on one of the highest points of the eastern part of the Basso Monferrato in the province of Alessandria, on a hill with very steep slopes made up of easily erosive sedimentary rocks. Construction work on the Sacred Mount began in 1589 on the initiative of the Prior of Crea Costantino Massino, who designed the enlargement of the pre-existing Marian sanctuary, providing also for the construction of a series of chapels dedicated to the mysteries of the life of the Madonna. Among the first chapels built, there are those of the Nativity of Mary and of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. The Sacred Mount of Crea includes twenty-three chapels, built in two different construction phases, one in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the other in the 19th century. The oldest part is distinguished by complex groups sculptures in polychrome terracotta inserted in frescoed environments; these were decorated by artists like Moncalvo, Prestinari, the brothers Jean and Nicolas de Wespin (the Tabacchetti). The nineteenth century work, that replaced the chapels that had been lost, reveals a simpler style of statues, except for the chapel of the Climb to Calvary, in which Leonardo Bistolfi worked and produced a composition of great emotional intensity. The chapels, except for the first two dedicated to Saint Eusebius, are centred on different stages of the life of the Virgin (initially on the mysteries of the Rosary), following a path that culminates in the chapel of the Coronation of Mary, better known as Il Paradiso. The Chapel of Paradise, with over three hundred statues, is the most complex of the Sacred Mount. Portrayed is the Coronation of Mary by the Trinity, supported by a host of angels. She has a crown of three rings of statues portraying apostles, saints and martyrs.
The history of the Sacro Monte di Crea begins with that of the convent and of the church of Santa Maria, destination of devotional pilgrimages since the Middle Ages, but it is with the new tridentine council mandate that the project of a "city of the spirit" is conceived. Creator of the work was the Lateran canon, Father Costantino Massino di Vercelli, prior of the Sanctuary, who in 1859 presented to the Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga the first project of construction of the chapels dedicated to the life of the Virgin and the mysteries of the Rosary. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, Monte had 18 chapels and 17 hermitages (places of prayer dedicated to a saint). The passage of armies, due to the wars of succession of Monferrato, which lasted throughout the century. XVII and the beginning of the XVIII, together with the suppression of religious orders by the French Government in 1801 and the consequent looting by the troops, reduced the Sacro Monte into a state of ruin and abandonment. In 1859 restoration work began on existing buildings and the construction of some chapels from scratch. Since 2003, along with eight other Sacred Mountains built between Piedmont and Lombardy, it has been included by UNESCO in the list of human heritage.
From an inter-religious point of view, the transformation of the Sacred Mountains into Parks or Nature Reserves was decisive. This allowed us to recognize both the religious and devotional value, both the architectural and artistic value, as well as the landscape and naturalistic value of the Sacri Monti. The series of chapels, which, with statues, paintings and frescos recount episodes and mysteries of sacred life, merge with the welcoming environmental surroundings and contribute to define the features of each monumental complex. Valuable examples of landscape architecture, the Sacred Mounts are important meeting places for the faithful and for lovers of art. The Sacred Mountains, with a current language, could be defined as "communication operations" for modern pilgrims in search of mystery. They are there to wait for the man of today, as they waited for the immense ranks of men and women who have gone on pilgrimage through the centuries in search of the mystery
In the Middle Age pilgrimage was an important part of the life of each good Christian. At that time the most important pilgrims destinations were three: Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem. Following on the weakening of western influence and on the prevailing of the Turkish power in the East, pilgrimages to the Holy Land stopped to be a group phenomenon and became a very expensive adventure, from which people even risked not to come back home anymore. Some friars of Saint Francis Minor Order, who lived in the Holy Land between the end of the XV and the beginning of the XVI century, once back home decided to rebuild, as accurately as possibile, the Holy Places of Palestine. So, it was to avoid Holy Land pilgrimage’s difficulties that rose the New Jerusalem of Varallo Sesia in Piedmont and the New Jerusalem of Montaione in Tuscany. In the period following the Council of Trento, thanks to the Counter-reformation of Saint Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584) and his bishops - throughout the north-western Alps and Pre-Alps - bore a series of devotional routes called Sacred Mounts.
- Direct visit: with local guides.
- Virtual visit: presentation of the Sacro Monte through the video-tour
- Classroom activity (pre and post the visit):
Artistic itinerary: detailed information on the works of art preserved in the sanctuary and in the chapels;
deepening on the figure of Guglielmo Caccia known as the Moncalvo
Activity of verification of the acquired knowledge and skills.



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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.