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BRIEF HISTORY
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH




 

THE HOLY HOUSE

About the year 330, Constantine's mother, St. Helena, built a church around the house of the Blessed Mother in Nazareth to protect it.  The Venerable Bede and other saints have testified to the existence of the Holy House in Nazareth.  It was even visited by St. Louis, King of France, in 1251.  

When the Moslems menaced the Holy Land in 1291, the Holy House suddenly disappeared from Nazareth on the night of May 10 and was found at Tersatto, Italy.  To the surprise of the townspeople, a building measuring 31-1/4 feet by 13-1/3 feet and 28 feet high was seen on land that had been empty the day before.  Its walls were 16 inches thick, of a reddish-colored stone.  It had a wooden roof, one door on its northern side , one window on its western side.  Inside it were found earthenware vessels, a stone altar, a wooden cross with the inscription, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum," and a cedar statue of the Virgin Mary with the Divine Child in her arms. 

The pastor of the nearby church was afraid it was a deception of the devil; but as he prayed for enlightenment, the Blessed Mother appeared to him and cured an illness he had had for many years.  The House remained at Tersatto for only three years and disappeared again.  

On the night of December 10, 1294, the same date on which the Holy House disappeared from Tersatto, shepherds near Recanati, Italy, watched a house being borne over the sea and setting to earth four miles away.  It remained in Recarati for only a brief time, moving that same year to its last and present location, in Loreto, where it positioned itself partly on a road, partly on a field.  A holy hermit on a nearby mountain saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin who identified the House and its origin.  Along the eastern seacoast of Italy, there is a centuries-old custom of ringing bells and lighting bonfires on the night of December 10 to commemorate the journey of the Holy House and to light the way taken by the angels who bore it.

There have been several investigations concerning the authenticity of the Holy House.  In 1296, a deputation of 16 competent and respected men journeyed to the Holy Land to examine the place where it had originally stood.  Its measurements and features were found to be identical with other one-room dwellings in Nazareth.  Another investigation took place between 1524 and 1534.  The Pope, Clement VII sent 3 chamberlains to Tersatto to examine the structure which the townspeople built to commemorate its temporary sojourn there.  Its measurements coincided with those of the House of Loreto.  The Papal investigators also went to the Holy Land and found not only that the measurements of the Holy House tallied exactly with the sport where it originally stood, but also that its stone and mortar were not known locally in Loreto, but were chemically identical with those of Nazareth.  

An archaeological examination was made in 1921-22 after a fire which unfortunately destroyed the original statue of Our Lady inside.  According to the technical findings:  "the walls of the Holy House have no foundation at all. . .the quality of construction. . .excellent quality mortar, indicates that they were certainly made by able hands and it would be unrealistic to believe that. . .the person who designed or supervised the work would have ignored the nature of the soil to the point of neglecting the most elementary rule in planting the building on dusty ground. . . It, therefore, must have been transported."  Architect F. Mantucci continues:  "It is surprising and extraordinary that the Holy House, though it has no foundation and stands on loose inform soil and is partially overburdened by the weight of the vault constructed in place of the roof, has been preserved unaltered without the slightest sign of yielding."

Due to the great number of miracles worked in the Holy House, the records that were first kept proved so laborious and time-consuming that they were discontinued.  Innumerable pilgrims have visited it, among whom were more than 200 persons canonized, beatified or declared venerable by the Church , including St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis de Sales and St. Therese of Lisieux.  The latter, deeply touched in her visit, wrote:  "Jesus is content to show us His home so as to make us love poverty and the hidden life."  

Popes have continually honored the Holy House.  Pope John XXIII prayed in the sanctuary a week before opening the Second Vatican Council.  John Paul II did likewise in 1979 before his historic trip to Ireland and America.  Pius IX called the basilica the foremost of all the shrines consecrated to the Mother of God.  While Pius XI commented:  "As far as the authenticity of the Holy House is concerned, there are many good reasons for acknowledging it, but no valid reason for denying it."

Pilgrims are met with this notice above the door:  "Tremble all you who enter here, because this is the holiest place on earth." 

 

 

 

 

 

(03-08-04)

 

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