Who would have guessed that the best views of Locarno, Lago Maggiore and the Maggia delta could be had from the forecourt of a church? At least without first having to climb all day up a tall mountain. The Madonna del Sasso is a place of pilgrimage founded in 1487 by the Franciscan friar Frá Bartolomeo as a result of an apparition here of the Virgin Mary in 1480 on the evening preceding the Feast of the Assumption. Modifications were made to the original edifice in the 15th century, and it was considerably enlarged during the course of the 17th century.
The complex consists of a monastery, a church, chapels and a large forecourt providing spectacular views. Incorporated in the complex is a niche containing terracotta statues depicting the Last Supper. The magnificent church is decorated with fascinating frescoes and votive panels.
The path leading up the sacred mountain is an experience in itself: the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) climbs steeply from the foot of the mountain past 12 Stations of the Cross in the form of chapels, in which are depicted the sufferings of Jesus Christ on his way to his crucifixion. The funicular train to Orselina avoids the 20-minute climb on foot.
The Madonna del Sasso monastery is still home to the Capuchin order of monks. Thanks to its merger with Italy, the order has acquired younger brothers and fresh impetus, and has gained in appeal.
Definitely worth a visit is the Museo Casa del Padre, inaugurated at the end of September 2016 and housed in the oldest part of the monastery. Find out more about the monastic life of the Capuchin brothers and places of pilgrimage in the prealps. Also on display are liturgical hangings or paraments, devotional objects, drawings and pictures by the Ticino artist Antonio Ciseri (1821-1891). Open daily between April and October, 9.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. / 1-5 p.m.