In the Church, we venerate the Virgin Mary as the greatest of Saints and as the mother of Our Savior. However, the New Testament offers us little in the ways of Mary’s early history during her earthy life, especially before the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel told her she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus.
The Bible has relatively sparse information about where she lived as a child, and where she lived with Christ during His childhood. According to tradition, it is believed that the house they both grew up is enshrined in the Basilica of the Holy House.
“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.” – Luke 1:56
The Basilica della Santa Casa, Italian for Basilica of the Holy House, is a basilica in Loreto, Italy which enshrines what is traditionally believed to be the house that the Virgin Mary grew up and lived in during the Childhood of Christ.
The Santa Casa di Loreto, or Holy House of Loreto, is contained within around a marble screen. Each four sides are meant to represent the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Arrival of the Holy House at Loreto, and the Nativity of the Virgin respectively.
Inside the marble screen is a plain stone building, only 350 square feet inside. On the north face of the building is a door, and on the west side is a small window. Inside a small recess in the wall is an image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on black cedar.
Catholic tradition believes the small stone building contained within the marble is the house of Nazareth that Mary was born and raised, received the Annunciation, and lived in during Christ’s Childhood.
After the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, the Twelve Apostles converted the house into a church. Over 300 years after the construction of the church on the house, Empress Helena made a pilgrimage to Nazareth and ordered the construction of a basilica around the church. The basilica stood as a popular place of worship and Catholic pilgrimage site until the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Facing destruction by the army of the Turkish Empire, tradition states that the house was carried by angels to Trsat, part of the city Rijeka in Croatia. In 1294, the house was carried again across the Adriatic sea to the town of Recanati in Italy, and a year later was moved again to its final resting place in Loreto. Tradition says the Lord told His angels to move the house, saying “Take the Holy House to a secure place, far away from the hatred of my enemies of this land where I was born. Raise it above to the air where no one can reach it. May no one see it.”
However, some historical documents point to a merchant named Nicéforo Angelo in the 13th century having the house moved.
On October 4, 2012 Pope Benedict XVI visited the shrine to mark the anniversary of the visit made by Pope John XXIII. During his visit, he entrusted the basilica and Holy House to the World Synod of Bishops. Today, the Holy House of Loreto is considered one of the most sacred places in the world and is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians worldwide.