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LORETO, HOUSE OF

Marian shrine at Loreto, in east central Italy near the Adriatic Sea. It is known that in 1253 St. Louis, King of France, heard Mass in Nazareth in the house where Mary, it is believed, received the Annunciation. Tradition has it that thirty-eight years later Dalmatian shepherds saw a strange house in their fields one night. The governor of Dalmatia sent to Nazareth to check the accuracy of the story and found that the holy house had disappeared. Upon examination the house in Dalmatia was found to be built of limestone, mortar, and cedar, all materials native to Nazareth and foreign to Dalmatia. Intermittently reported in various places, the house at last came to rest near the large village of Recanati at the hamlet of Loreto. Pope Boniface VIII declared that the traditions concerning the holy house were worthy of belief. December 10 was appointed the feast day of the Translation of the House. Since 1294 pilgrims from all over the world have come to Loreto, including many popes who have knelt there in prayer. The French during the Revolution removed the image of Our Lady from the holy house and took it to Paris, but Napoleon returned it and Pope Pius VII restored it to Loreto in 1802 after keeping for a short stay at the Papal Palace on the Quirinal. The original statue was accidentally destroyed in 1921 and a new one carved from cedar grown in the Vatican gardens. Pope Pius XI enthroned the statue of Our Lady of Loreto in 1924 in the Sistine Chapel, solemnly crowned her, and with great solemnity exposed her for a day at Santa Maria Maggiore and then returned her to Loreto. The House of Loreto rests on the ground, without any foundation, yet has never evidenced any deterioration. Other remarkable aspects attend its preservation. The village of Loreto was heavily bombed in World War II, but the great church housing the House of Nazareth, with its single door, window, and fireplace, stood unshattered. Pope John XXIII made a pilgrimage to Loreto on October 4, 1962.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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