An ancient tradition tells that the walls of the shrine existed in Nazareth, Galilea: the Holy House is the same house where Our Lady Mary was born, grew up and received the angelic announcement.
This tradition, based on devotion and popular belief, ascribed the transportation of the House of Nazareth to an angelic mission. Current historical studies have developed the hypothesis of a transportation carried out by man, by way of sea and land, that was made possible thanks to special assistance from above. The original nucleus of the Holy House consists of three walls only: in Nazareth, the original fourth wall was simply the side opened towards the entrance of the grotto. The interior altar of the Holy House now stands on that side.
The Holy Chamber can be clearly defined in two different parts. The lower section (from the ground up to almost 3 meters in height) is the original wall, made of sandstone blocks, built in regular rows, as one might find in Nazareth; the upper section was added later with Le Marche local brick, the only building material used in the area for that method of construction.
The basilica built around the Santa Casa was started in 1469 in late Gothic style, probably based on a design of Marino di Marco Cedrino, and completed in 1587 with its facade in late renaissance style.
The square, bordered on the east side by the facade of the basilica with its bell-tower, on the north and west by the Apostolic Palace and on the south by the Illiric Palace, is also embellished by a central fountain.
In the middle of Piazza della Madonna stands an artistic fountain, designed by the celebrated Carlo Maderno and his uncle Giovanni Fontana and built between 1604 and 1614. The fountain is adorned with bronze sculptures, carved by Tarquinio and Pietro Paolo Jacometti in 1622.
A little further we can find the Municipal Palace, with its brick walls; its 17th century bell-tower is the work of Giovanni Branca, while the battlement was added in 1887. In the small square there is a monument to Garibaldi, with a marble bust by Ettore Ferrari (1886).
The Treasury Hall or Hall of Pomarancio was built at the beginning of the 17th century to house liturgical ornaments, vestments and the votive gifts offered by the churchgoers. The excellent frescos are by Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio (1605-1610), with ten stories from the life of the Madonna, six prophets and six Sibyls. These frescos are considered masterpieces of late roman mannerism.