Loreto. False History of Holy House of Nazareth’s Natural Transportation
by Enza Ferreri
The latest science and technology, as well as archaelogical research, confirm that the house inside the Basilica of Loreto is the House of Mary, the very same dwelling which once stood in Nazareth, in the Holy Land, and where Mary was conceived and born, grew up and received the Annunciation of her future miraculous giving birth to Christ.
In the same house the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus, and Our Lord there lived with the Holy Family. After Jesus’ Resurrection, the house was transformed into a church where St Peter, the first Pope, and the Apostles placed an altar and where St Peter celebrated the First Eucharist after the Resurrection, as taught to the Disciples by Jesus in the Last Supper. Therefore, among these walls, the Divine Sacrifice was celebrated for the first time.
The the Holy House of Nazareth in the Basilica at Loreto is therefore one of the most important Christian relics in the world.
In a previous article we have explored all the evidence and studies from many fields – architecture, engineering, chemistry, history, archaeology – performed over the centuries, which show beyond doubt not only that this is the same house that was in Nazareth but also that the House of Mary was miraculously translated from Nazareth through various locations and finally to Loreto. No other explanation is possible.
Rather than repeating that information here, we refer you to that article linked above.
An attempt, however, has been made to explain the transfer of the Holy House through human intervention, which we’ll examine here.
Was This a Historic Forgery?
Despite the obvious and insurmountable physical obstacles to transportation by natural means, it is claimed that some ships must have carried the whole house – in itself an impossible feat even now, let alone in the 1290s, when its disappearance from Nazareth and appeareance in Loreto occurred – or, just as implausibly, that the building was dismantled, its pieces were transported by land and sea and finally the house was rebuilt in Loreto identical in every respect – exactly same dimensions, same building norms and construction materials common in Palestine but totally unknown in Italy at the time – to the one in the Holy Land, without deterioration or variation during the demolition process and 2,000-kilometre-long voyage.
Ah, and the house in Loreto has been standing there for 700 years with absolutely no foundations, partly suspended on a public road with no preparation of the ground: explain that.
Anyway, some people tried a different, non-supernatural, non-miraculous explanation. It’s a simple story, although so absurd that believing it requires more faith – of the blind kind, this time – than believing the supernatural explanation.
A family named De Angelis, who lived in Collesano (near Palermo, in Sicily) until the middle of the nineteenth century, claimed to be descendants of the Byzantine family of the Angelus-Comnenus despots of Epirus.
They also claimed that Nicephorus I Comnenus Ducas despot of Epirus instituted on 22 June 1290 in the Greek city of Ioannina the Constantinian Angelic Order of Saint Sophia, of which their family was the holder. The succession of the Great Masters of the Order was alleged to have taken place by direct family line, from Nicephorus up to today.
Finally, it is said that in 1294 the Neapolitan man Philip of Anjou, Prince of Taranto, married Ithamar (or Margherita) of Epirus, daughter of Nicephorus I Comnenus Ducas despot of Epirus, the man described by the De Angelis family as the first Grand Master of their Constantinian Order of Saint Sophia, and received as a dowry of his bride, among other goods, “holy stones taken away from the house of our Lady the Virgin Mother of God” in Nazareth.
The only document that can be adduced to support all this is the Chartularium Culisanense, a cartulary (collection of papers) so named because it was once kept in the palace of the De Angelis family in the small town of Collesano, in the Province of Palermo. The document has now been lost but a non-authenticated copy of a copy is declared to exist.
Is this the copy of a copy – albeit non-certified and therefore unofficial – of a real document that actually once existed or a forgery, similar to many others of this kind, that have been produced in the vain attempt to claim a noble heritage for the people supporting the validity of the document?
I am not a historian so I won’t answer this.
Let a professional historian with a specialist knowledge of the period, who has thoroughly and in depth researched the subject, visiting the locations, interviewing protagonists and librarians, and unearthing documents, Andrea Nicolotti of the Department of Historic Studies of the University of Turin, enter the frame.
“It is possible to shed a light on these documents by retracing the history of the De Angelis family and its Constantinian Order. In truth the tradition according to which this Sicilian family would be heir of the Byzantine family of the despots of Epirus and holder of a Constantinian Order is to be considered fake; this not only because in the Byzantine world of the 13th century there was nothing that could resemble a Western chivalric order, but also and above all because the descent of the Angelus family of Epirus, as presented in the cartulary, is incorrect. Indeed, the claims regarding the Constantinian Order and its Grand Masters are founded on the alleged fact that this chivalric order has had a dynastic continuation guaranteed by a never-interrupted direct descent; instead, we know that the family of the despots of Epirus became extinct in 1318 with the killing of the despot Thomas, who left his wife Anna without descendants. The Sicilian family of the De Angelis, therefore, has nothing to do with these Byzantine nobles. The examination of the surviving documents, the reconstruction of family history and the analysis of what remains of the cartulary show that those documents were manufactured in modern age to accredit with a false noble descent and Byzantine ancestry the Chivalric Order of Saint Sophia, which has a rivalry with the other Constantinian Order of Saint George, much better known because it was recognised by the Bourbons of Naples and of Parma. Ortensio De Angelis, in particular, in the years when he made his Chancellor Benedetto D’Acquisto endorse the copy of the alleged cartulary, was busy to establish a bogus statute of the Order and advanced claims on a kingdom of the Ionian Islands that never existed. The whole story, therefore, has all the elements of one of the numerous attempts to attribute an aristocratic ancestry to a family that cannot claim it.”
Concerning the specific alleged transportation of the House of Nazareth by the De Angelis family the historian Andrea Nicolotti writes:
“In 1294, as already mentioned, Philip of Anjou, Prince of Taranto, had married Ithamar (Margherita), daughter of Nicephorus I Comnenus Ducas despot of Epirus, the man who is described by the modern De Angelis family as the first Grand Master of their Constantinian Order of Saint Sophia. The nineteenth-century copy of sheet 181 of the Chartularium Culisanense refers to this wedding, because it consists of a list of fifty-two goods that were allegedly received by Philip as a dowry of his bride. The second paragraph of this list contains a mention of «holy stones taken away from the house of our Lady the Virgin Mother of God», and the third paragraph «a painted wooden table where the Virgin Lady Mother of God holds the baby Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, in her lap».
“The already widespread tradition according to which the house of Mary arrived in Loreto on the 10th December 1294, transported in flight by the angels of Heaven, refers to the same year in which this alleged transfer of the stones to Italy took place, and the mention of the painted table would also seem to refer to an object that was kept in Loreto. For this reason sheet 181 of the Chartularium seemed to confirm the historiographical hypothesis, already proposed by some authors, according to which the house of the Madonna would have been demolished in Nazareth and its stones transported to Loreto; the moving of the stones, the new source indicates, should be ascribed to the family of Nicephorus I Comnenus despot of Epirus. The Loreto legend would therefore be the result of a linguistic misunderstanding, through which the memory of the faithful would have set aside the recollection of the transport of the stones carried out by a branch of the Byzantine family of the Angels, ending up describing it as an amazing transport due to the heavenly “angels”. Although it is not clear why the stones should have been transported to Recanati of all places, this explanation of the “misunderstanding” would manage to find a basis of historical reminiscence in preference to the miraculous tradition.”
Unfortunately, continues Nicolotti, there is hardly any evidence or support for such claims. In fact:
“What is certain is that the De Angelis of Palermo have nothing to do with the Byzantine Angelus family, and therefore they could not have any part in the transport of Ithamar‘s dowry goods to Italy.”
Allowing, just out of prudence, for the sheer, albeit unsupported, possibility of authentic documents ending up mixed with fraudulent ones, Professor Nicolotti still considers the circumstances
“certainly extremely suspicious, because – unlike what happens with authentic documents – there is no other attestation of that dowry document beside the copy of the alleged cartulary, and it should be explained how a false Byzantine family could have come into possession of such a personal and private authentic Byzantine document, otherwise unknown. The false character of at least two of the surviving documents of the Chartularium and the false genealogy of the family that preserved it are certainly not an argument in favour of the authenticity of sheet 181.”
In view of all this the historian concludes:
“Certainly, in my opinion, the essentially fake character of the story and of the Byzantine documents produced by the De Angelis family must lead one to strongly be suspicious of the credibility of all the sources that they accredit.”
“The history of the family has thus revealed its false Byzantine origin and the consequent falsity of the Constantinian Order…
The falsity of the genealogies of the family, the falsity of the Order and some sheets taken from the alleged chartularium (several times described as a summary but never fully reproduced or viewed by any specialist) make one also strongly doubt the authenticity of the other sheets, and should induce scholars not to draw conclusions based on these papers. However, they remain very important documents that not only testify to one of the many processes of falsification of aristocratic accreditations typical of the last few centuries, but which have also been the source and today are the memory of a series of historical theories about the events of some sacred objects (the Shroud, the stones of Loreto and the Madonna portrait) developed in the last century and believed by many to be credible until the time when the apocryphal character of the cartulary was ascertained.”
References (in Italian):
Andrea Nicolotti sulle false origini del Chartularium Culisanense, Giornale di Storia
Il Chartularium Culisanense, di Anna Battaglia e Andrea Nicolotti
References (in English):
By Parsifall [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.
Image by Laurentiu Adrian Cretu from Pixabay
Massimo Roselli [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)]