If contemporary architects consider smell to be insignificant or irrelevant, the design of the Sacro Monte di Varallo reveals how smell was harnessed to convey profound meaning in early modern Italy. Beginning in the fifteenth century, the Franciscans built a series of chapels upon an Alpine mountaintop that was intended as an accurate reconstruction of the Holy Land, thereby creating a strange and fascinating landscape that immersed pilgrims in the life of Christ and that also engaged all the senses. By considering the careful choreography of scent at this site, we can investigate the special value assigned to odor and olfaction by early modern builders, where the human encounter with smell provided an essential means to bind devotion and belief with lived experience.


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pp. 56-75
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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