A curious insight into the history and origin of the Hermitage.
Tradition wants the Hermitage to be founded by Alberto Besozzi, a wealthy local merchant who, escaped to a nubium during the crossing of the lake, decided to retreat on that stretch of coast and lead you to life from a hermit.
There Blessed Alberto erected a chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Egypt, currently visible at the bottom of the church. The chapel, which dates back to the 12th century, was soon joined by two other churches, the one of St. Nicholas and Santa Maria Nova, whose existence is certain from the 14th century.
After a first period of time during which the Dominicans stayed there, from 1314 to 1645 the Hermit was led by the friars of the Milanese convent of Sant'Ambrogio ad Nemus, then replaced by the Carmelites until 1770. To be underlined is the miracle of the beginning of the eighteenth century , When five huge "ballerine" boulders rushed to the church but remained entangled in the vault of a chapel without causing serious damage, remaining suspended for almost two centuries until 1910.
These "shrill" rocks seem to give the name to the hermitage that is, of course, Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro, although it is more likely that the name etymology is linked to the nearby town of Ballarate. Since 1970 the Hermitage is owned by the Province of Varese. From 1986 to 1996 he was ruled by a Dominican community, but today he went to the Benedictine oblates.
Abandoned on a rocky cliff overlooking the lake, the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso is without a doubt one of the most scenic scenery in Lake Maggiore.
The church is accessed through a portico formed of four arches of the sixth, Renaissance imprint. The present building has a truly unique structure, the result of the fusion of three chapels, which were originally distinct and that were originated in different epochs. Numerous are the pictorial cycles present outside and inside the church, covering a period from the 14th to the 19th century. Art and history combine beautifully in a natural picture of the most evocative, almost a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Borromeo, Stresa and the islands.
The bell tower
As for the bell tower, its construction dates back to the 14th century, it is 15 meters high, including the cusp and the cross, and has a rectangular base. Originally the tower was built as a bell tower of the church of San Nicolao which had its own autonomous entrance, now walled. In the 16th century, when churches were conquered in the present sacred building, the front door was opened that today allows access to the church from the Renaissance porch.