Upper Basilica

Beyond the imposing staircase opening above the “Holy Courtyard” the view expands to the Upper Basilica, a building  of monumental proportions and yet in harmony with the encircling mountains, offering an interesting contrast with the intimate spiritual dimension of the Ancient Basilica.

The necessity to erect a new church, due the growing number of pilgrims flowing to the Sanctuary, was felt as early as the 17th century, when a number of projects concerning the expansion were discussed by the authorities. At the end of the 19th century the project, elaborated a century before by the architect Ignazio Amedeo Galletti (1726 -1791), was approved. In an effort to accommodate the expansion of the Sanctuary to the north, the Oropa torrent was deviated in order to provide the necessary terrain for construction. The first stone was laid in 1885 but the work, involving numerous and qualified professionals, proceeded with great difficulty during the two World Wars. The cupola, of eighty meters of height, was meant to be the crown of the imposing monument which was consecrated in 1960.

The carvings on the three massive doors in bronze, preceded by a large pronaos, depict the history of the Sanctuary from the Eusebian origins to the erection of the New Church. A large octagonal space dominated by the cupola, supported by tall columns providing access to the six chapels dedicated to the life of the Virgin, welcomes the visitors inside the vast and imposing hall. The main altar, positioned at the centre of a smaller hall, is surmounted by an aerial ciborium, a modern piece of artwork by the Milanese artist Gio Ponti.

The Upper Basilica is a grandiose edifice whose erection was promoted by the latest generations of the residents of Biella, as well as by many other devotees of the Black Madonna. The names of the devotees who have contributed to the erection of the church are carved on the marble walls of the underground crypt of the suffrage.

The latter displays a rare interesting collection of nativities coming from various countries around the world, a testimony of faith and cultural diversity crossing time and space, currently welcomed in the arms of the Black Madonna of Oropa.


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