It is the first shrine of international renown dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and has been a true Marian centre of Christianity for several centuries.
Flown By Angels
Tradition has it that a band of angels scooped up the house from Nazareth in the Holy Land to save it.
From pillaging and destruction and transported it first to Tersatto, Dalmatia in 1291. It is said investigations at the time found the house was built of limestone, mortar and cedar wood. These materials were commonplace In Nazareth, but almost unobtainable in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia).
Then three years later, the little house was said to have been once more flown by angels this time to Recanati, where he did not stay long, and finally on to Loreto in Italy.
A vast Basilica with a huge dome has been built over the site of the Holy House. The Popes have always held the Shrine of Loreto in special esteem, taking it directly under the authority because of the "divine mysteries which took place there".
Written at the door of the Basilica are the words: "The whole word has no place more sacred....for here was the word made flesh, and here was born the Virgin Mother..."
On entering the Basilica, one finds beneath the central dome, and just behind the high altar, a rectangular edifice of white marble, richly adorned with statues. However the white marble forms only a protective coat. The contrast between the exterior richness and the poverty of the interior is stark.
Inside are the plain, rough walls of a cottage of great antiquity, ten metres by five metres and about five metres high. In its original form the Holy House had only three walls because the eastern side, where the altar now stands, opened onto a Grotto.
In the centre of the House of Our Lady, there is a replica of a wooden statue of the Madonna. The original one, made of cedar of Lebanon, arrived at Loreto together
with the house, but has since been destroyed. The dark colour of the image represents the original image of Our Lady of Loreto, which was carved from wood and subsequently darkened over the centuries of being exposed to the soot from the oil lamps which burn in the Chapel. The original statue was destroyed by fire, and the friars determined that it would be most proper that the replacement statue reflect the darkened condition of the original prior to the destruction by fire.
There are seven oil lamps which burn continuously in the Shrine. Each day the lamps are filled with a special oil which will burn through the time the Chapel is open to pilgrims, who come in their thousands. Prior to filling the lamps each day, what oil remains in the lamps is poured into small bottles. For centuries this oil, blessed by both a priest with a sacred blessing, and by Our Lady as it burns in the Shrine, has long been valued by pilgrims to the Shrine as an oil of blessing and healing.