Biella, DIOCESE of.—The city of Biella, the see of the diocese of that name, is an important industrial center (anciently called Bugella) of Piedmont, Italy, in the province of Novara. The diocese contains about 200,000 inhabitants. and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Vercelli. Until 1772 Biella had no bishop, but was under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Vercelli. In that year Clement XI, yielding to the desire of King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, established the Diocese of Biella by the Bull “Pmcipua”. The first bishop was Giulio Cesare Viancino, formerly Archbishop of Sassari in Sardinia. In 1803 Napoleon suppressed the diocese, which again fell under the jurisdiction of Vercelli, but was reestablished in 1817 by Pius VII who appointed as bishop the Minor Observantine, Bernardino Ballato. It is difficult to determine when the Gospel was first preached at Biella; certainly not before it reached Vercelli. According to the opinion of Fedele Savio, S.J., the latter city received the Faith in the second half of the third century from Milan.
In the shrine of Maria Santissima d’Oropa, situated on a lofty mountain near Biella, the diocese preserves a memorial of St. Eusebius, the great Bishop of Vercelli, who was banished to the Orient by Emperor Constantius for his courageous defense of Catholic truth against Arianism. St. Eusebius, according to tradition, upon his return from the East, is said to have brought three pictures of the Madonna painted on cedar wood, one of which, the image of Oropa, he placed in a small oratory he had built. In the tenth century the chapel was placed in charge of the Benedictines. The latter having abandoned the place, Pius II, in 1459, made over the shrine to the chapter of the collegiate church, now the Cathedral of Biella, to which it has since belonged. In the sixteenth century, the inhabitants of Biella, in thanksgiving for their deliverance from the plague, built a stately church over the chapel. Even today the shrine of Oropa draws many devout pilgrims.
Among the religious edifices of the city of Biella, the most notable is the Gothic cathedral, built in 1402. Its beautiful choir is by Galliari. The baptistery, in the form of a small temple, is said to be an ancient Roman edifice.