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The History

The first historical document that indicates the presence of a small church in the valley, called Orgials, is an act of agreement on the borders of Vinadio and Isola, drawn up on September 23, 1307, which names “the hospice of S. Maria di Brasca”. It was a small chapel flanked by poor rooms for the hospitality of wayfarers and pilgrims. In a deed dated 21 February 1447 it appears that the hospice was administered by the parish priest of Vinadio with four councillors, two of whom were elected by the municipality. It can be noted the importance of the hospice, both civil and religious, given the composition of the administrative group; it was, in fact, a sacred place, for the reception of all pilgrims, and at the same time necessary for the economic development of trade in the place. The oldest evidence on the life of the hospice of S. Maria attested the presence of hermits who dedicated themselves to the service of wayfarers.

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With the development of the church into a sanctuary, the administration stipulated an agreement with a stable custodian called “Randiere“. His duties were established as follows: – to live at the sanctuary all year round;

  •  to take care of the maintenance of the buildings;
  • to provide food for the wayfarers and accompany them along a stretch of road in case of bad weather;
  • to tidy the road and the plains;
  • to ring the bell at the Ave Maria and in case of bad weather to guide the wayfarers; to provide hay for the pilgrims to sleep on;
  • to provide meals for priests and administrators on feast days.

A document of 1443 for the first time attests the new title of the church from now on called “S. Anna”. The old alpine hospice was changing physiognomy becoming a characteristic sanctuary. The cult of S. Anna and S. Gioachino had spread in the West after the Crusades and to give strength to the new devotion also on site the popular tradition resorted to a presumed apparition of S. Anna to a shepherdess, Anna Bagnis, that would have happened on a rock between the pastures higher up the church.
In every ancient legend there is always a fund of truth

It is still possible to reach the so-called Roccia dell’Apparizione, a few hundred meters away from the Sanctuary, where the statues of Sant’Anna with Mary child and the shepherdess kneeling in prayer facing them are placed. With the passing of time, towards the 16th century, the church was becoming more and more a sanctuary, since it was no longer just a place of passage for merchants, but was becoming a place of prayer and devotion, a destination for devout pilgrims. It dates back to this period the rebuilding of the altar and the purchase of a painting on a wooden panel depicting the saint, unfortunately lost with the French Revolution. In 1619 the church managed to obtain a relic of Sant’Anna, which is still preserved in the silver arm that is on display in the church, near the altar.
The most significant stage in the development of the sanctuary was the construction of the new church, the present one, in 1680-81, with the animation of don G.B. Floris parish priest of Vinadio, helped by the Municipality and the pilgrims. The 17th century church was built slightly further down the valley than the old chapel. At that time there were already thousands of pilgrims. The growing fame of the sanctuary was abruptly interrupted for some years with the French Revolution, a period in which the church was also sacked, and then resumed in the nineteenth century with the influx of many faithful.

Nel frattempo si continuavano a costruire nuovi locali per i viandanti, come le stalle, i fienili ed un camerine risalenti alla metà del 1700. Agli inizi del 1800, iniziarono i lavori di costruzione dei portici di fronte alla chiesa, che vennero terminati nel 1822, con la realizzazione dell’anello al coperto per le processioni e le novene.

Intanto si resero necessari anche dei lavori di ampliamento e sistemazione della mulattiera, per permettere anche ai mezzi muniti di ruote di arrivare fin lassù.

Verso la metà del 1800, si iniziò la costruzione di un edificio parallelo alla chiesa, ad essa collegato con un porticato, per ospitare i pellegrini ed il personale a servizio.

La volta venne costruita solo nel 1870, al posto del tavolato originario distrutto da un incendio. Negli anni seguenti , su progetto dell’ing. Alessandro Arnaud, del 1881, l’edificio ha assunto l’impostazione attuale con il rifacimento della facciata e del campanile.

Trattandosi di un luogo di confine, il posto venne utilizzato frequentemente, e non solo nei periodi di guerra, dai soldati, per costruire trincee e fortini militari. Persino la strada carrozzabile venne costruita a partire dal 1924 per scopi militari, oltre ad una teleferica che collegava Pratolungo al Colle della Lombarda.

Finite le guerre, finalmente gli edifici, un tempo costruiti con lo scopo di distruggere l’uomo, sono stati mano a mano risistemati, questa volta con lo scopo di giovare all’uomo, a partire dall’antico ospizio, continuando con la struttura militare “San Gioachino” e via via tutte le caserme, grazie all’intuizione geniale dell’attuale Rettore del Santuario, don Giorgio Pepino, che ha speso la maggior parte della sua vita e delle sue energie per il recupero di questi edifici e per la rinascita del Santuario.

Gli ultimi lavori risalgono all’estate scorsa, con la ristrutturazione totale dell’edificio “San Gioachino” (ora anche ridipinto all’esterno), con la sistemazione della cucina (completamente moderna e innovativa), delle sale da pranzo e soprattutto delle camere, che sono dotate di riscaldamento.

La folla di pellegrini e turisti in aumento nei decenni dell’ultimo dopoguerra ha reso insufficiente la chiesa per le celebrazioni più solenni. A tal fine nel 1971-72 si risistemò il chiostro tra la chiesa ed il vecchio ospizio rendendolo spazio adatto alle celebrazioni. Al pian terreno dell’ospizio, venne formata la cappella delle confessioni, per offrire il clima di raccoglimento adatto, che è stata completata nel 2000 con la realizzazione della cappella dell’adorazione, dove tutti i giorni viene esposto il SS. Sacramento.

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