The Madonna del Sasso sanctuary is just like a huge balcony towering over Lake Orta: formidably striking it dominates the entire area and offers spectacular views
When you admire it at a distance from the garden at La Darbia, the Madonna del Sasso sanctuary on the opposite side of the lake appears in all its splendour: built on a spur of granite at an altitude of 638 metres, it literally dominates the western shore of Cusio. Sometimes it seems to be alight, embraced by the morning sunshine while, at other times, it appears wrapped in lacustrine fog and evokes a fairytale setting.
The sanctuary was realized in the 1700s by Lorenzo Peracino, an artist from Valsesia, on the site where originally there was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, followed at a later date by the first church, which hosted the miraculous statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was Pietro Minola from Bollate who decided to have a new santuary erected at his own expense in thanksgiving for a favour granted by Our Lady. The Bell Tower and Parish House were both put up some time afterwards.
The church was built in Baroque style and planned in the form of a Greek cross; in the interior there are frescoes worth seeing and an altarpiece attributed to Fermo Stella from Caravaggio. An urn containing the blood and bones of Saint Donato, a Christian martyr found in the Roman catacombs of San Calisto, is also kept on the altar. The local inhabitants implored the saint in their prayers to protect them from lightning and hailstone.
The large square in front of the sanctuary is another real treasure : once upon a time it was known as “il prato della tela” (the laundry green) because the local ladies would gather there on hot summer days to bleach their homemade fabrics. Nowadays the square hosts the numerous tourists who climb uphill in all seasons to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Looking out over the little wall that separates the grassy area from the steep rocky cliff produces an amazing sensation: the view is spectacular, breathtaking! Mt. Mottarone and a chain of Alp summits, the Novara flatlands, the rolling hills of Cusio and the island of San Giulio, silent guardian at the centre of the lake.
This is the perfect place if you want to take some memorable photographs to post on Instagram or to proudly show on your smartphone screen : the amazing setting suspended between lake and sky creates the perfect background for selfies which will remain in your mind's eye.... no need for any filters.