From St. Francis de Sales to St. Louis de Montfort, many saints visited the Holy House of Loreto over the centuries. St. Charles Borromeo made four pilgrimages in 1566, 1572, 1579, and 1583.
St. John Paul II in 1993 called the Holy House of Loreto the “foremost shrine of international import dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.”
The victory over the Turks at Lepanto was attributed to the Virgin of Loreto by St. Pius V, leading both General Marcantonio Colonna and John of Austria to make pilgrimages to the shrine in 1571 and 1576 respectively.
Christopher Columbus made a vow to the Madonna of Loreto in 1493 when he and his crew were caught in a storm during their return journey from the Americas. He later sent a sailor to Loreto on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving on behalf of the entire crew.
Queen Christina of Sweden offered her royal crown and scepter to the Virgin Mary in Loreto in 1655 after her conversion from the Lutheran faith to Catholicism.
Napoleon plundered the shrine and its treasury on Feb. 13, 1797, taking with him precious jewels and other gifts offered to the Virgin Mary by European aristocracy, including several French monarchs, over the centuries. Yet, the object of real value in the eyes of pilgrims, the Holy House of Mary, was left unharmed.
In a homily in 1995, St. John Paul II called the Holy House of Loreto “the house of all God’s adopted children.”
He continued: “The threads of the history of the whole of humankind are tied anew in that house. It is the Shrine of the House of Nazareth, to which the Church that is in Italy is tied by providence, that the latter rediscovers a quickening reminder of the mystery of the Incarnation, thanks to which each man is called to the dignity of the Son of God.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.