The Basilica of the Holy House is one of the main places of veneration of Mary and among the most significant and most visited Marian shrines in the Catholic Church. It is located in Loreto in Piazza della Madonna, 127 metres above sea level, at the end of the Via Lauretana. The sanctuary has the dignity of a minor pontifical basilica.
The Basilica houses the Holy House of Nazareth where, according to tradition, the Virgin Mary was born, lived and received the annunciation of the miraculous birth of Jesus. Studies show that the origin of the House is Palestine, both in terms of the architectural style and the use of building materials, unknown to the territory of the Marches and yet widely used at the time in the Holy Land. Tradition has it that the Holy House, after passing through Dalmatia, remaining for about three years in Trsat (now a district of the city of Rijeka in Croatia), arrived in Loreto on the night of 9-10 December 1294.
In 1469, on the initiative of the bishop of Recanati, Nicolò delle Aste, and later Pope Paul II, the first construction work on today's basilica began. Next to the white Istrian stone façade, completed in 1587, stands the elegant bell tower (1750-55), the work of Luigi Vanvitelli. Under the dome is the sacellum of the Holy House, covered in marble with statues and reliefs, a sculptural masterpiece of the 16th century. The striking interior is visited by pilgrims from all over the world to pray before the statue of the Black Madonna.
The Chapel of the Annunciation was decorated with frescoes by Federico Zuccari, the sacristies of St. Mark and St. John by Melozzo da Forlì and Luca Signorelli, and the ceiling and the pavilion of the Treasury Room by Pomarancio. The Pontifical Museum of the Holy House of Loreto, housed in the Apostolic Palace, preserves paintings, sculptures, tapestries and majolica from the Sanctuary and donated to the Holy House through the ages. In the collection of paintings, the works of the late maturity of Lorenzo Lotto, who died in Loreto around 1556, stand out. The Treasure of the Holy House includes valuable works of fine jewellery.
"The Holy House of Loreto is the first shrine of international significance dedicated to the Virgin and the true Marian heart of Christianity". (John Paul II)