The Holy House of Loreto

The Holy House of Loreto

The shrine of Loreto, which has been a pilgrim destination since the fourteenth century, conserves the house where Mary lived in Nazareth, the which, according to popular pious tradition, was transported by the angels to Loreto in 1294, shortly after the definitive expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land. Recent examinations of documents and archaeological remains (excavations under the Holy House), as well as philological and iconographic studies, are giving increasing weight to the hypothesis that the stones of the Holy House were transported to Loreto by ship at the initiative of the aristocratic Angelos family which then ruled the region of Epirus. Divine assistance in this undertaking remained as a symbol in the presence of angels.


The House is the place where the Virgin was born, lived with St. Joseph, received the Annunciation from Gabriel and conceived the Son of God. It is therefore associated with the Mystery of the Incarnation.


Mary’s house in Nazareth was composed of two parts: a grotto which is still to be seen in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and a house with three stone walls. Comparative studies between the Holy House of Loreto and the grotto of Nazareth have revealed the coexistence and contiguity of the two. Another recent study on the way in which the stone has been worked – in the manner used by the Nabateans which was widespread in Galilee at Jesus’ time – also confirms the popular tradition. When the three walls of the Holy House arrived in Loreto they were set up, without foundations, in a public street, but almost immediately they became the object of the extraordinary measures of care and protection afforded to a precious relic.

Loreto and Musselburgh

In 1533, a Captain Thomas Duthy, who had fought against the Turkish invaders of Europe, arrived in Musselburgh. Now a hermit of the Order of St Paul, he brought to the town a statue of Our Lady from Loreto. On being given a grant of land by the baileys of the town, he built a shrine in honour of Our Lady of Loretto. Devotion spread rapidly and this too became a centre of pilgrimage attracting the highest and lowest of the land, King James V bestowing his Royal Patronage. The shrine was badly damaged by English invaders in 1544 and rebuilt by the townspeople. But, with the coming of the Reformation, it was destroyed along with many other great abbeys and shrines. It was finally demolished in 1590.

However, the memory of Loretto was not wiped out. In the nineteenth century, when a private Christian school was built on the site, it took the name; and when a Catholic community became established in the town, both its church and school were dedicated to Our Lady of Loretto. So the Loretto tradition and devotion lives on in Musselburgh.

A Home Making God

 Speaking at Loreto in 2002 Pope Benedict spoke of Our Lady in relation to the Holy House: “The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognise that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, His brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. … So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters. As we contemplate Mary, we must ask if we too wish to be open to the Lord, if we wish to offer Him our life as His dwelling place; or if we are afraid that the presence of God may somehow place limits on our freedom, if we wish to set aside a part of our life in such a way that it belongs only to us. Yet it is precisely God who liberates our liberty, He frees it from being closed in on itself, from the thirst for power; … He opens it up to the dimension which completely fulfils it: the gift of self, of love, which in turn becomes service and sharing. “Faith lets us reside, or dwell, but it also lets us walk on the path of life”.

2016 The Year of Mercy

In this year, when a new Pope has asked us to reflect on God’s Mercy and to become agents of that mercy then perhaps here at Loretto we need to reflect on the saying of Jesus; “I was homeless and you gave me shelter”. Being the Church of the Virgin of Loreto should in effect shape our response. How do we make people who visit or return to our community feel at home? Or again how do we respond to homeless people?

The Litany of Loreto

Over the centuries the Church’s love and devotion to the Mother of Jesus deepened as she reflected on who Jesus was and therefore in consequence who Mary was in relation both to him and the rest of the people of God. In devotional terms this is expressed in the general Litany to our Lady known as the Litany of Loreto. All of Mary’s titles and our devotion to her (indeed to any of God’s Saints) are reflective only of the grace and power of God working through her. It is worth noting that all of God’s grace is available to all believers as we fulfil our vocation as disciples. What we do in this prayer is to ask Mary to pray that we too may be open to God’s work, to say our yes to God as she did when she became the Mother of God’s own Son.


Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.

Christ, graciously hear us


God, our Father in heaven,                                              have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,                       have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,                                             have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,                                        have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,                                                                                   pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,                                            pray for us.
Most honoured of virgins,                                                 pray for us.

Mother of Christ,                                                   pray for us.
Mother of the Church,                                       pray for us.
Mother of divine grace,                                    pray for us.
Mother most pure,                                              pray for us.
Mother of chaste love,                                      pray for us.
Mother and virgin,                                               pray for us.
Sinless Mother,                                                      pray for us.
Dearest of mothers,                                           pray for us.
Model of motherhood,                                      pray for us.
Mother of good counsel,                                  pray for us.
Mother of our Creator,                                      pray for us.

Mother of our Saviour,                                      pray for us.
Virgin most wise,                                                                    pray for us.
Virgin rightly praised,                                                          pray for us.
Virgin rightly renowned,                                  pray for us
Virgin most powerful,                                                          pray for us.
Virgin gentle in mercy,                                      pray for us.
Faithful Virgin,                                                                          pray for us.
Mirror of justice,                                                                     pray for us.
Throne of wisdom,                                                                 pray for us.
Cause of our joy,                                                                      pray for us.

Shrine of the Spirit,                                                                pray for us.
Glory of Israel,                                                                          pray for us.
Vessel of selfless devotion,                                             pray for us.
Mystical Rose,                                                                          pray for us.
Tower of David,                                                                        pray for us.
Tower of ivory,                                                                          pray for us.
House of David,                                                                        pray for us.
Ark of the covenant,                                                              pray for us.
Gate of heaven,                                                                       pray for us.
Morning Star,                                                                             pray for us.
Health of the sick,                                                                  pray for us.
Refuge of sinners,                                                                   pray for us.
Comfort of the troubled,                                                    pray for us.
Help of Christians,                                                                 pray for us.

Queen of angels,                                                                     pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs and prophets,                            pray for us.
Queen of apostles and martyrs,                                   pray for us.
Queen of confessors and virgins,                                 pray for us.
Queen of all saints,                                                               pray for us.
Queen conceived without sin,                                       pray for us.
Queen assumed into heaven,                                        pray for us.
Queen of the rosary,                                                             pray for us.
Queen of families,                                                                  pray for us.
Queen of peace,                                                                      pray for us.


Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.


Pray for us, holy Mother of God.
That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.


Let us pray.

Eternal God, let your people enjoy constant health in mind and body.
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary free us from the sorrows of this life and lead us to happiness in the life to come. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.