Famous People Visited Our Lady’s Shrine in Loreto. . . and You Should Too!

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Famous People Visited Our Lady’s Shrine in Loreto. . . and You Should Too!
Famous People Visited Our Lady’s Shrine in Loreto. . . and You Should Too!

The Holy House of Loreto is where Our Lady lived at the time of the Incarnation. God favors this house with many blessings. The angels lifted this house off its foundation when it was in danger of being destroyed, transported it to multiple places, and settled, finally in Loreto, Italy.

Over the centuries, millions of pilgrims have visited the Holy House of Loreto, where the Incarnation took place. In addition to the many saints, countless leading personalities of history visited the shrine of Loreto as pilgrims. An exhaustive list would also require a separate discussion,1 so only a few examples are given here. The Holy House is a gift to the faithful. The many pilgrimages there should encourage all to appreciate and take advantage of this gift.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, as can be read in his “Journal,” knew the Loreto sanctuary very well and possibly visited it as a young sailor when crossing the Adriatic between 1465 and 1475. On February 13, 1493, while returning to Spain from the historic journey in which he discovered the American continent, his fleet was hit by a violent storm. The sea became very threatening, and the waves tormented the two surviving ships, the “Niña” and the “Pinta.”

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On the night of February 14, the wind intensified further, and the waves became appalling. The “Pinta” was at the mercy of the wind, was taken off course, and disappeared from sight. Faced with danger, Columbus and his sailors relied on the intercession of Our Lady, to whom they made three collective promises. As many chickpeas were put into a cap as were sailors on the “Niña.” One of the chickpeas was marked with a cross, and whoever drew it would have to go on pilgrimage to three Marian shrines. The first and third draws fell to Columbus, who promised to go to the Spanish sanctuary of Santa Maria of Guadalupe in Extremadura, offering a five-pound candle, and to that of Santa Clara di Moguer. The second drawing fell to a sailor, Pedro de Villa, to whom Columbus promised money to go “to Holy Mary of Loreto, located in the Marche of Ancona, in the Papal States, which is the House in which the Blessed Virgin has made and still makes many great miracles.” After the three promises, the storm gradually subsided, and the crew was finally able to land on the Spanish coast. In the dome of the Basilica of Loreto, the painter Cesare Maccari depicted Christopher Columbus fulfilling his vow.2

Royal Pilgrims

France has always had a special bond with the Holy House. As is known, the sanctuary houses several national chapels (Spanish, Polish, Swiss, German, Slavic, etc.), but the French one, dedicated to King Saint Louis IX (1214-1270), has a special meaning.

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The great sovereign went as a pilgrim to this holy abode when it was still in Nazareth. The visit took place on the eve of the Annunciation in 1251 after he was freed from the captivity of the Sultan of Egypt. The chapel and its paintings recall the episode and the crusade against the Mohammedans. On March 25, he received Holy Communion in the Holy House.

Here is how William de Nangis recounts that journey:

“As soon as he saw the city, he dismounted from his horse and adored Our Lord and venerated Our Lady. . . On that day, despite his labors, he fasted on bread and water. With how much devotion and solemnity he behaved, and with what splendor he had the vespers, Mass and other offices of this feast celebrated! The numerous people present can all describe it, and more than one will proclaim and testify that from the day the Son of God took His body from the Virgin Mary in this same place, never was He officially celebrated with so much solemnity and devotion. The pious king had the Mass sung ‘in the place where the angel Gabriel greeted Our Lady.’ At the end of the Mass, he received with great devotion and humility the true Bread of Angels, which is the true Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And then he returned to Jaffa.”3

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In remembrance of this event and as a sign of gratitude and devotion, the king is depicted on the wall of the Holy House in prayer in front of an image of Our Lady, covered with the royal mantle, and holding in his right hand the chains of his imprisonment, and on the left, his scepter. According to some,4 when the three holy walls came to Trsat, the walls were already painted like that. The halo was evidently added later because Louis IX was canonized by Boniface VIII in 1297. Others claim that the fresco is from a later date.5

Louis XIII (1601-1643), after 23 years of sterility of his wife Anne of Austria, by the grace of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, finally succeeded in begetting the future Louis XIV (1638-1715). In thanksgiving, he gave a massive, 330-pound silver angel in the act of presenting to Mary a life-sized child in gold weighing 24 pounds. Later, the Sun King asked and obtained that the feast of Saint Louis IX be celebrated every August 25 in the basilica, with solemnity and in perpetuity. In a letter dated December 23, 1655, he also asked the Pope to extend the feast of the miraculous translation of the Holy House on December 10 to the universal Church.6 That is why a French chaplain has been present in the sanctuary for centuries.

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Princes, princesses, kings, and emperors became pilgrims in Loreto. Emperor Charles IV, John Palaeologus of Constantinople, Frederick III, Alfonso of Aragon, King of Naples, many Polish sovereigns, Emperor Charles V, King Christian of Sweden, Archdukes Leopold, Ferdinand and Maximilian of Austria, King Charles IV of Spain, Queen Beatrice of Hungary, and the dukes of Savoy, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and Mantua, to name just a few.

In 1598, the young Archduke Ferdinand, who later became Emperor Ferdinand II, went as a pilgrim to Loreto to promise the Blessed Virgin that he would destroy, even at the cost of his life, the heresy then spreading in Austria. He did so and became a champion of the Counter-Reformation.

The assistance Our Lady gave to the Hungarian king, Stephen V Báthory, one of the military glories of that country, in the Battle of Breadfield against the Turks on October 13, 1479, was likewise extraordinary. In desperate conditions, he managed to win after invoking the Most Holy Virgin of Loreto. As a sign of appreciation, he gave the shrine a huge golden statue of the Virgin and Child.

Dante Alighieri

The great poet Dante Alighieri, in his Divine Comedy, refers in passing to Loreto: “In that spot was I, Peter Damien / And Peter the sinner was in the House / Beside the Adriatic, in the house our blessed Lady” (Paradise XXI), alluding to Saint Peter Damien, who found himself in the Marche region well before the translation, and to Saint Peter, who instead celebrated Mass in the Holy House in Nazareth.

A General Visits Loreto

In Loreto lay the mortal remains of one of the main protagonists of the anti-Jacobin insurrection of the Marche region during the era of the Napoleonic invasion, General Giuseppe La Hoz. Born in Milan of Spanish origin, La Hoz first supported Bonaparte and was a staunch advocate of Jacobinism. But he changed his mind and went over to Italian insurgents, leading the revolt in the Marche from June 17, 1799, and dying under the walls of Ancona at the end of September 1799. He entered Loreto on August 4 of the same year, and the French definitively abandoned the Marian city, which fell under the imperial-royal pontifical Regency, established on the preceding July 11 by the Marche of Ancona and Fermo.

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Monaldo Leopardi, in his Autobiography, writes that he believes “for certain that La Hoz had the genius and thoughts of Bonaparte and only circumstances made them unlike.” However, the fact is that the day after his death, the body of the general was taken to the basilica of Loreto and buried with great honors in its cemetery crypt, now called the Crypt of the Crucifix. Exhumations in 1941 and 1995 found his body still well preserved.7

Louis Veuillot

The great counter-revolutionary journalist Louis Veuillot confirmed his devotion to the Holy House in his work Rome and Loreto (1841): “It will never occur to us that God would deceive our piety and love. Had He not ordered his angels to take this house, which was the theater of the first mystery of our salvation, to the heart of the Catholic world, He would certainly have been able to make any fallacious imitation of it disappear. And just as He could easily annihilate a vain imitation, He could just as easily offer to our veneration these holy stones, which, according to His august designs, should be torn from the hands of infidels. . . There is no place for error when God intervenes with sensational and miraculous gestures to support something He wants to make known with certainty. Everyone knows the unquestionable truth that Providence, supremely wise, would not employ supernatural testimonies of its power to induce men into error. Now [in this case], supernatural testimonies, otherwise called miracles, are innumerable.”8

Universal Homage

This litany of great people, temporal and spiritual, proves the devotion and love for Our Lady and the mysteries of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. God has favored the Holy House because inhabited by Our Lady inhabited it and was where the Incarnation took place. The Holy House of Loreto is a lasting miracle. It reminds us of the fatherly love of God but also of the effort needed to correspond, as so many great people trekked hundreds of miles to venerate this holy place.

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The above article is taken from the author’s book, The Miracle of the Holy House of Loreto.

Federico Catani was born in Jesi (Ancona) in 1986. He graduated in Political Science at LUISS—Free International University of Social Studies Guido Carli (Rome) and in Religious Sciences at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome). He has taught Catholic religion in state schools and, as a journalist and publicist, he currently writes for various magazines and blogs in the Catholic world. He is a member of the Italian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). He is the director of Spunti, a publication of the Association Luci sull’Est.


  1. See, on this subject, G. Santarelli, Personaggi d’Autorità a Loreto, Edizioni Santa Casa, Loreto 2010.
  2. Cf. Il voto di Cristoforo Colombo alla Madonna di Loreto, at http://www.vivereosimo.it/2007/12/10/il-voto-di-cristoforo-colombo-alla-madonna-di-loreto/150119/.
  3. Cit. in G. Gorel, La santa Casa di Loreto, cit., p. 34.
  4. Cf. G.M. Pace, Miracolosa traslazione a Loreto della dimora della Santissima Annunziata, cit., pp. 25-26.
  5. Cf. G. Santarelli, La Santa Casa di Loreto, cit., p. 266; G. Gorel, La santa Casa di Loreto, cit., p. 35.
  6. Cf. G. Gorel, La santa Casa di Loreto, cit., p. 211.
  7. Cf. Il Messaggio della Santa Casa, no. 8, September-October 2015.
  8. Cf. G. Gorel, La santa Casa di Loreto, cit., p. 136.

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