In a nook of the Alps, nestled in the meeting point of the Stura, Gesso and Tinèe valleys, in a pristine natural environment crowned by towering mountains lies the Sanctuary of Sant’Anna di Vinadio. The smooth, rolling shapes of the mountainsides witness the work of glaciers in ages past and picturesque mountain lakes dot the gentle valleys. Imposing peaks, the Maladecia to the South and Bravaria to the North, dominate over the buildings of the Sanctuary.
Located at 2020 m above sea level, the Sanctuary of Sant’Anna di Vinadio vaunts being the first, highest Sactuary in Europe. In actual fact there are many small churches in the Alps that are situated at higher altitudes but these cannot properly be considered sanctuaries.
This is a place where pilgrims can come to pray. Here they can give thanks to the One who created the world and its magnificent features while contemplating the silence of the mountains and the beauty of the landscape. This is a place where everyone is welcome to come to rest and to restore their body and soul. This is a place to come and reflect, to celebrate and share with others.
The first chapel was built around the year 1000. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary (“Santa Maria di Brasca”) until about 1450 when it was then dedicated to Saint Anne.
The present-day church was built in 1680 and it too was dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary.
This holy building has got three naves. Its hardwood floor rises owing to the slope of the rock below.
The central nave extends to the presbytery which is closed off by large gates decorated with the emblem of Vinadio at the top. At the front of the presbytery the nineteenth century statue of Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary and the seventeenth century reliquary with the relics of the Saint stand prominently.
The main altar is made of marble and dates from 1960. Ten years later the new embossed copper altar was placed, turned towards the people. The two side alters are dedicated to Saint Joachim and to Our Lady of the Snows. The walls are adorned with countless votive pictures and tablets that witness the gratitude of generations of pilgrims.
The oldest piece that is to be found in the Sanctuary is the painting of St. Anne, above the main altar. It is dated 1686 and signed by Michelangelo Ceruto from Rome. The central scene of the painting portays St. Anne and the Virgin Mary who are holding Baby Jesus. The smaller squares depict eight scenes from the life of Saint Anne. These follow the descriptions of ancient Christian texts, which the Church has never accepted as Gospels, but which the Christian people are very devoted to.