Pontifical Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto
In the three year cycle celebrating the Pontifical Delegations the Philatelic and Numismatic Office dedicates this year’s series of 20 and 50 euro gold coins to the Pontifical Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, which John Paul II called "the first shrine of international importance dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the true Marian heart of Christianity". According to tradition and evidence from historical and archeological studies, the Shrine contains a part of the house in Nazareth of the Virgin Mary. The walls are made from terracotta bricks, clearly indicative of a Nazarene style, and were brought to the territory of Loreto in 1294 by crusaders expelled from Palestine. At first elevated and covered by a dome, then surrounded by a colonnade, the treasured monument was later protected within a larger church and finally by the current basilica. The 20 euro coin, produced by artist Gabriella Titotto, shows the statue of the Virgin and Child found in the niche above the altar of the Holy House of Loreto with its characteristic jeweled mantle, dalmatic, and dark face typical of older icons. The original statue from the 14th century was destroyed in a fire and replaced by Pope Pius XI with an identical one produced in Lebanese cedar wood coming from the Vatican Gardens. The 50 euro coin, a work by Cristina De Giorgi, offers instead an external view of the basilica, a splendid work of gothic art of the renaissance period with construction starting in 1468 involving distinguished artists such as Bramante, Antonio and Giuliano da Sangallo.