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For years, the Statue of Liberty stood as the tallest statue in the Americas. Then, in 1983, Spanish sculptor Manuel de la Fuente erected a 153-foot statue of the Virgin Mary, the “Virgen de la Paz” (Virgin of Peace), in the state of Trujillo, in western Venezuela. The imposing statue, made entirely of concrete and weighing around 2,400,000 pounds, is a few inches taller than the Statue of Liberty (151 feet from the base to the torch) and several inches higher than the world-famous sculpture of Christ the Redeemer (124.672 feet) located at the summit of Mount Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was the tallest Marian monument in the world, until the coastal town of Primošten, Croatia, built a monumental statue of Our Lady of Loreto.
The town, which is visible from the Italian coast on a clear day, is is well known for its many vineyards, its beaches, its medieval village, and for its Lady of Loreto feast: Every year, on May 9, a traditional procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin is held around the boats and the coastline.
The statue was built with the collaboration of the Cammini Lauretani association – an organization that aims to connect all the Marian shrines throughout Europe under the sponsorship of a special program of the Council of Europe focused on Cultural Routes.
The mayor of Primošten, Stipe Petrina, explained this is one of the many ways in which they intend to develop a religious tourism industry.
The Holy House of Loreto
The Holy House of Loreto consists of three walls of stacked stones. It is safeguarded beneath an ornate Renaissance-era basilica in Loreto, Italy. It is believed that Mary grew up in this house and that the Annunciation took place within it. But shouldn’t Mary’s house be in Galilee?
There is a Basilica in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation, built over a grotto where tradition claims Mary grew up and was visited by the Archangel Gabriel. It is the largest church in the Middle East. The remnants of four earlier churches within it (a 3rd-century synagogal basilica, a 5th-century Byzantine basilica, a crusader church from the 12th century, and another one built by the Franciscans in the 18th century) bear witness to the ancient belief that this was the site of Mary’s house and the Annunciation.
For many centuries, tradition held that angels miraculously carried the Holy House from Nazareth to Loreto. Throughout the Italian basilica are numerous artistic depictions of angels flying over the seas with the house. No wonder, then, that St. Anne is the patroness of all those engaged in the grueling process of changing house.
Modern research suggests that the Holy House, like many relics from the Holy Land, may have been transported by ship. In the early 1900s, a papal archivist discovered a record detailing items that were brought to Italy from the Holy Land during the Crusades. He discovered that a Greek merchant with the surname Angelos paid crusaders to move the house to Italy. His name might have led to the tradition of the angels bringing the house, brick by brick, to Italy.