Burial of Christ (or the Deposition of Christ in the Holy Shroud)

This chapel was among the first constructed on the Sacro Monte. It was built between 1491 and 1500, while Bernardino Caimi was still alive and directing the site's development, to house a scene of Christ's burial. Sometime in the first decade of the sixteenth century, it seems, the chapel was divided in two and a scene of Jesus being stripped of his garments before the Crucifixion was added in the new segment, which is now Chapel Forty. In the early seventeenth century, those figures were replaced with the existing Lamentation by Giovanni d'Enrico (c. 1640), which is often described as a Pietà to distinguish it from the scene inside this chapel. The first guidebook to Varallo, Questi sono li Misteri (1514), described this chapel as the place of unction, where Christ's body was prepared for burial. The original wooden sculptures for Chapel Forty-One were carved by the brothers Giovanni Pietro De Donatti and Giovanni Ambrogio De Donati between 1486 and 1493. That group was removed from the chapel around 1822 - 1823 and moved to the Pinacoteca di Varallo later in the nineteenth century. It was replaced by the current figures in 1826. These sculptures in terracotta were modeled by Luigi Marchesi (1754 - 1829), a neoclassical sculptor from Milan. In 1898, Pier Celestino Gilardi (1837 - 1905) painted new frescoes for the Entombment chapel. He was originally from Valsesia and studied at the Scuola Barolo in Varallo before continuing his artistic education at the Accademia Albertina in Turin. There does not seem to be any surviving record of what the frescoes depicted or what state they were in before Gilardi's intervention. The first image of this scene, which is printed in Giovanni Giacomo Ferrari's Brevi Considerazioni (1616), depicts only the figures from the De Donati's original group. The wooden grille (date unknown) that covered the window onto Chapel Forty-One was removed in 1959 and replaced with current the iron lattice, which was made by Severino Boato and designed by Emilio Contini. In a niche outside the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher (Forty-Four), there is a large stone with a plaque that reads: "Questo pietra e in tutto simile / a quella con la quale fu / coperto il sepolcro del nostro signore / gesu cristo in gerusalemme / trovata nello scavare i primi fondamenti di questo sacro luogo." Varallo's first guidebook, Questi sono li Misteri che sono sopra el Monte de Varalle (1514), had described a stone outside that chapel that was "simile [...] col qual reclause il gran sepulcro sancto," but modern experts Debiaggi, Bober, and Symcox have all emphasized that the extant stone could not have represented the stone that the angel rolled away from Christ's tomb (Matthew 28:2) because it is not round. Debiaggi proposed that the stone currently on display outside the sepulcher chapel represented the Unction Stone during Caimi's lifetime and was originally located in this chapel with the scene of Christ's burial. He believed that the unknown brother who penned the guidebook nearly fifteen years after Caimi's death had made an error and associated the stone with Christ's tomb because the Unction Stone is a relic that is housed in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher. As Debiaggi notes, the description of the Unction Chapel in the 1514 guidebook also records that Jesus' body was placed "su una pietra" in that scene, which supports his theory. There was another square stone inside the tomb at the Holy Sepulcher. Debiaggi writes that this block is believed to have been made from a piece of the Christ's original, round, tombstone and was already in place by the time of Caimi's pilgrimage. Jonathan Bober has shown that there was a similar block inside the atrium of Chapel Forty-Three at Varallo. It is documented in a photograph that was taken sometime before the Bachetta brothers' intervention (1945), but it is not clear when or why the block was removed. / Varallo was the first Sacro Monte in Northern Italy. The collection of chapels on the hilltop overlooking Varallo was established by Bernardino Caimi (before 1450 - 1499 or 1500) as a way of recreating the sights and experiences of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He organized the chapels according to their Holy Land geography and incorporated architectural details from the pilgrimage churches corresponding to each scene. Caimi chose Varallo to be the site of his New Jerusalem in 1481, he received papal permission to begin collecting donations in 1486, and he is believed to have overseen the project from 1491, when the first chapel was finished, until his death. Different writers have counted each of these dates as the year of the Sacro Monte founding. Many of the early chapels were decorated by Gaudenzio Ferrari (c. 1480 - 1546), who was born nearby and gained a reputation during his lifetime as one of the leading painters in Lombardy. Saint Carlo Borromeo (1538 - 1584) visited the Sacro Monte multiple times while he was Archbishop of Milan (1564 - 1584). Carlo and his contemporaries implemented new policies to clarify Catholic doctrine and structure spiritual practices in Milan after the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). Carlo Bascapè (1550 - 1615), Saint Carlo's close friend and the Bishop of Novara, personally oversaw a building campaign to reorganize the chapels at Varallo and restructure the pilgrimage experience according to the ideals of the Counter-Reformation. These changes were largely based on designs by Galeazzo Alessi (1512 - 1572), which are collected and preserved in a manuscript called the Libro dei Misteri (1565 - 1569) in Varallo's Biblioteca Civica. Construction continued throughout the first half of the seventeenth-century, led primarily by Giovanni d'Enrico the Younger (c. 1559 - 1644) and his family workshop. Beginning in 1609, d'Enrico also supervised the construction of the new Basilica, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. The Basilica was consecrated in 1649 and the old church, or Chiesa Vecchia, was demolished in 1773, but the Chiesa Nuova was not finished until the façade was added in 1891 - 1896.
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