Nestled in Hamilton’s North End is a home that may be as close as you’ll get to heaven on earth — and it could be yours.
From the outside, it may not look out of the ordinary, but a handful of statues and saintly images near the front entrance provide just a hint of what’s inside the three-bedroom unit.
Beyond the front door, which is wrapped to look like stained glass, lies a spiritual sanctuary that has transformed the seemingly normal dwelling into a shrine of sorts — a shrine expected to go with its outgoing owners, but that makes for an unusual staging of a house up for sale.
Lou Tallarico describes the house, which is listed at $799,900, as “very, very unique and very holy.”
The home looks somewhat unassuming from the outside. (Dan Taekema/CBC)
He’s the sales representative with ReMax Escarpment Golfi Realty Inc. who’s tasked with finding new occupants for the otherworldly residence.
Every wall and nearly every surface is covered in Catholic icons, nativity scenes and countless figurines. In the living room, next to the TV, is a large display centred on the Crucifixion, flanked by black and gold pillars and a place to kneel and pray. The ceiling above is painted to resemble the sky and clouds — perhaps a nod to the Sistine Chapel or other holy sites.
“Come take a look at the house. The worst thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll be blessed and you’ll feel good,” said Tallarico. “There’s a cleansing of some sort of spirituality that comes out when I go through this house.”
The collection is the work of the adult son of the couple who owns the home, according to the sales representative working to sell the house. (Dan Taekema/CBC)
The sales representative said the collection is the work of an adult son whose parents own the home. The family declined sharing the story behind the collection, but Tallarico can’t avoid the elephant in the room when giving a tour.
He estimated it’s made up of thousands of pieces and “worth a lot,” though he wasn’t sure exactly how much.
The son would go to churches when they’re closing or updating, and purchase or save different pieces, Tallarico said.
Bringing people closer to the sacred
It’s a collection that covers all three storeys of the house, with pictures of saints, popes and Jesus looking out from the walls in bedrooms, hallways and living spaces.
Working in real estate, Tallarico said he’s seen a lot of different things, but the size and nature of the collection crowding the unassuming house on Macaulay Street is something else.
“Never have I experienced something like this,” he admitted. “It was very, very overwhelming, when I first walked in here.”
WATCH | ‘Take a look at the house … you’ll be blessed and you’ll feel good’:
Take a tour of this Hamilton house that’s home to a unique collectionFind out why the sales representative for this house says it’s “very holy.” 1:42
When Sam Migliore looked through photos of the listing online, he was struck by something familiar.
Migliore is a professor of medical and visual anthropology based in B.C. CBC Hamilton contacted him to get his take on the house and help explain the drive behind such faithful collecting.
He said a framed picture of the Madonna hanging inside the house was similar to one his family brought with them to Canada from Sicily in the 1950s.
“My mother kept the picture in the bedroom to, in a sense, watch over us all,” Migliore explained in an email.
The professor said some of the artworks in the house appear to be set up as shrines to Jesus, Mary or various saints.
“The sheer number of works is more than impressive,” he wrote, adding the collection offers a variety of art forms and depictions of religious figures.
The collection includes thousands of pieces, from large statues and paintings to tiny figurines and near-life-sized nativity scenes. (Dan Taekema/CBC)
It’s difficult to say why someone would gather so many items and display them, according to Migliore, who added it may be a reflection of a personal esthetic or the importance of religion in someone’s life.
“Generally speaking, shrines can be used to bring people closer to the sacred, providing a basis for communicating with religious figures or establishing a special space for spiritual activity,” he said. “I hope, however, that something can be done to preserve the items, in some form, in a new location once the home is sold.”
‘Have faith’ in the house
The collection will be saved, with the vast majority leaving with the family when they move out, Tallarico said. But first he has to find someone to buy the semi-detached home.
Tallarico said despite the home’s great condition and location, it hasn’t brought in the interest he expected.
“I’ll be honest with you — it’s been a little bit more challenging than I thought,” he said.
“We feel that maybe there is some hesitation, people looking at some of the pictures, thinking maybe this is not for them.”
GAUDY IS A DOUBLE ENTENDRE WITH THIS ONE.<br>That said I am a maximalist and a huge fan of colour so bravo to these home owners for staying 👏 true to theirselves. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SeeBeyond?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SeeBeyond</a><a href=”https://t.co/V7hjnlJQ3p”>https://t.co/V7hjnlJQ3p</a> <a href=”https://t.co/sx5pFAXJQ4″>pic.twitter.com/sx5pFAXJQ4</a>
In a bid to help people visualize the building without its decor, his team mocked up some virtual renderings to show what it would look like without so many saints staring down at you.
He invited people to embrace their curiosity, come see the house and seek inspiration for what it could be, rather than what it is.
“Have faith … that this place, once it’s emptied, will be a great fantastic family home in this neighbourhood.”
A crown of thorns rests on a pedestal next to a glass case in the living room. (Dan Taekema/CBC)
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