Our Lady of Sorrows (or Pietà)

This small oratory was added onto the second chapel at Orta in 1680. It was funded by Giovanni Righetti, a local citizen who was part of the Fabbricieri for many years according to a late eighteenth-century guidebook by Didimo Patriofilo. Patriofilo also wrote that Righetti built the chapel because visitors were so moved by the image of the Crucifix inside the chapel that they wanted a place to continue to meditate on Christ's death and resurrection before continuing on their spiritual journey through the life of Saint Francis. The artist who sculpted the figures of Jesus, Mary, and two Angels remains unknown, but these figures are similar in style and composition to another group by Dionigi Bussola at the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre at Domodossola. It is possible that Bussola (1615 - 1687) or his workshop also made these sculptures, especially since he had already made some figures for the chapel in the 1660s. Frescoes by Pier Francesco Gianoli (1624 - 1692) from nearby Varallo depict Jesus' disciples and Mary's female companions on the walls surrounding the sculptures of Jesus, his mother, and two angels. They were painted in 1681. Scholars believe that the chapel was rearranged in the nineteenth century. It may have been then, around 1846, that the altar was added by an architect named Monti from Borgomanero. / Orta is the second oldest Sacro Monte. Construction began on the chapels there in 1591, just over a hundred years after the first Sacro Monte site was established at nearby Varallo. A community of Capuchin friars lived on the mountain, oversaw construction, and guided visitors on their pilgrimages once the chapels were finished. One of the brothers, Cleto da Castelletto Ticino (1556 - 1619) designed a series of thirty-six mysteries for the site, although only twenty chapels were ever completed. Before joining the Capuchin Order, Cleto had trained as an architect and engineer. After construction began at Orta, he also worked alongside Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527 - 1596), one of Carlo Borromeo's favorite architects. Amico Canobio (1532 - 1592), a Benedictine Abbot and Commissioner of the secular lands within the diocese of Novara, oversaw Cleto's work and was the first major patron of the chapels at Orta. Carlo Bascapè (1550 - 1615) took charge of directing the progress at Orta as soon he was named Bishop of Novara in 1593, the year after Canobio's death.
External DOI