Marco Beck Peccoz’s pictures, along with short historical texts and an introduction by Antonio Paolucci, lead us to the discovery of nine routes through fascinating landscapes, across which series of chapels are spread, accommodating statues and frescoes of episodes dear to the Catholic tradition. The most ancient Sacred Mountain, the Sacro Monte di Varallo, was founded in the late 15th century by a Franciscan friar, and tried to recreate a sort of virtual journey to the Holy Land for those who could not go there on a pilgrimage, reproducing historical sites associated with the life of Jesus and populating them with scenes of what happened there. Thanks to Gaudenzio Ferrari, who worked in Varallo in the early 16th century, the episodes from the Gospel were portrayed with intense naturalism, using figures in the round that looked like real people, with real appearances and real feelings, in order to emotionally engage worshippers.
This model was followed by the Sacred Mountains built after the Council of Trent in Orta, Crea, Varese, Oropa, Ossuccio, Ghiffa, Domodossola and Belmonte, which experimented this new and effective form of religious communication.
Renowned artists – such as Gaudenzio Ferrari, the Fiammenghini painters, Morazzone, Tanzio da Varallo, Moncalvo, the sculptors Tabacchetti and Prestinari, Giovanni d’Enrico, Dionigi Bussola, Giuseppe Rusnati, Antonio Busca – worked at the Sacred Mountains, often alternating with one another at the various complexes, to build lively and realistic scenes, engaging and full of pathos, which are as timeless today as they were then to worshippers and art lovers alike.