Outside the Basilica
The square, bordered at the east side by the facade of the Basilica with its Bell-tower, at the north and west by the Apostolic Palace and at the south by the Illiric Palace, is also embellished by a central fountain.
Started in 1469 in late Gothic style, probably based on a design of Marino di Marco Cedrino, the Basilica was completed in 1587 with its facade in late renaissance style.
In 1468 the Bishop of Recanati Niccolò delle Aste decided on the construction of the current temple, started the following year.
After the bishop's death in 1469, the construction works taken on by Pope Paul II who had been miraculously cured in 1464 in the Holy House, while he was a cardinal.
The octagonal tambour of the cupola to the cornice was built by Giuliano da Maiano and vaulted by Giuliano da Sangallo in just eight months, between September 1499 and May 1500.
The facade was designed by Giovanni Boccalini, who started the work of construction, from the lower cornice; it continued under the direction of G.B. Ghioldi and was brought to conclusion in 1587 by Lattanzio Ventura under the auspices of Pope Sixtus V, whose name was engraved on the upper cornice.
The Bronze Doors
Cardinal Antonio Maria Gallo, Protector of the Shrine between 1587 and 1620, ordered to build the three bronze doors that embellish the facade of the Basilica for the jubilee of the year 1600.
The Bishop’s aim was to underline the biblical subjects depicted on the doors, as it should shepard the pilgrims spiritually to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, of which the Holy House is a reminder.
The three portals were produced in the foundry of Recanati and recently restored by the Morigi firm.(1988-1992).
The central door is the work of Antonio di Girolamo Lombardo, assisted by his brothers Pietro, Paolo e Giacomo; he started in 1590 and finished in 1610.
The Monumento to Sixtus V
On the left side of the churchyard in front of the church there is the statue of Sixtus V, done by Antonio Calcagni with the collaboration of Tiburzio Vergelli in 1587.
It was paid by the Marca Province and by eight prelates from Piceno who had been consecrated cardinals by Sixtus V.
The Apostolic Palace
The two-floor Palace opens onto the square in front of the Basilica, with two wings, the longer wing on the north side and the shorter one on the west.
Some scholars believe that its construction began in 1498, following the projects by Giuliano da Sangallo or by Francesco di Giorgio Marini; however, the Palace was rather conceived by Donato Bramante, who had been sent to Loreto by Pope Julius II with the charge to "design many works".
The Illyrian Palace
This Palace stands on the south side of the square. A decorous brick edifice, it was reduced to its present form in 1831-1835 by the architect Giuseppe Marini.
For many years the previous structure, started in 1580, had housed the Jesuits, the penitentiary priests of the Shrine, and young students from ancient Illyria.
Nowadays the Palace, which has been restructured and modernized, is used as a hostel for pilgrims, especially infirm pilgrims of the so-called "white trains".
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 some bronze sculptures, carved by Tarquinio and Pietro Paolo Jacometti in 1622.
Maderno and Fontana brought water to the fountain through a gallery nearly 5 km. in length from the Recanati area, to meet the needs of the pilgrims.
The design is by Luigi Vanvitelli, the famous architect of the celebrated Royal Palace of Caserta. Work started in 1750 and concluded in 1755 under the supervision of Pietro Bernasconi.
It houses nine bells, one of which is worthy of mention: called "Loreta" and made by Bernardo da Rimini in 1515, it is 184 cm. in diameter and weighs no less than 7300 kilos.