The construction of the Holy Mountain in Orta dates back to the end of the sixteenth century, in the church of San Nicolao, an ancient place of worship where the wooden statue of the Madonna della Pietà was venerated.
The religious complex is located at 400 meters above sea level, in a magnificent position above the town of Orta.
The works for its construction lasted more than a century, passing through various architectural models used by the artist of that time.
The territory of its sanctuary is extended of about 13 hectares and is divided into two distinct areas, one where the deciduous forests prevail and the other where the monumental area with its historic gardens is present.
The Sacro Monte has been studied in detail by its designer; the path between the chapels but also its vegetation follows his guidelines.
It is one of the three distinct areas included in the Special Natural Reserves of the Sacro Monte in Orta, Mount Mesma and the hills of the Towers of Buccione, established by the Piedmont region between 1980 and 1993.
The monumental complex, also called "Assisi of the North", has its vital centre in the church of the Saints Nicolao and Francesco.
It was built on the hill that rises in the centre of the Orta San Giulio promontory during the period where the Holy Mountains emerged to protect from Lutheran religion invasion.
In 1583 the inhabitants of Orta decided to erect a set of chapels and a monastery on the "forest of S, Nicolao, intended to house, by the will of San Carlo Borromeo and the Novara Abbot Amico Canobio, the Capuchin Franciscan friars.
Inside the 20 chapels, depicting episodes of the life and miracles by San Francesco d'Assisi, there are 376 life-sized terracotta statues.
At the entrance, on an arch, you will find the inscription: "Here in orderly chapels you can see the life of San Francesco, and if you wish to know, the artist is love".
The Holy Mountain of Orta was therefore undertaken, with emulation of the Holy Mountain of Varallo, starting in 1590, on the joint initiative of the Orta Community and the Abbot of Novara, who started the works and had the first chapel built at his own expense.
Designer of the monastery project and the religious complex, that originally included 36 chapels, was the Capuchin friar Cleto of Castelletto Ticino.
Part of the text from: https://www.comune.ortasangiulio.no.it