The Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel (Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo) is a sacred cave and popular Catholic shrine near San Giovanni Rotundo. Here the Archangel Michael is said to have appeared in 490, 492 and 1656 and consecrated the shrine himself.
St. Michael the Archangel first appeared at Monte Sant'Angelo in 490. According to tradition, it all started when a local nobleman named Elvio Emmanuele lost the best bull of his herd. After much searching, he found it kneeling in a cave. Unable to approach it, Elvio shot the bull with an arrow, but the arrow turned around and struck the man instead.
Bewildered (and presumably bleeding), Elvio went to see his bishop, who ordered three days of prayer and fasting. At the end of the three days, St. Michael the Archangel appeared to the bishop and said:
(It is perhaps notable that the central ritual of the Roman cult of Mithraism is the shedding of bull's blood in caves.) The bishop, however, began to worry about his own sanity and dismissed the vision. Two years later, the Christian city of Siponto, part of the bishop's diocese, came under attack by the pagan city of Odoacre. Again St. Michael appeared to the bishop, this time promising to save the city of Siponto. Immediately, a violent storm engulfed Odoacre, saving the Christian city. In thanksgiving, the bishop led a procession to the top of the mountain but did not dare to enter the cave.
Soon, Michael appeared to the bishop a third time, ordering him to enter the cave. He said:
The bishop then entered the grotto, where he found an altar covered with a red cloth, a crystal cross, and a footprint on the ground. The bishop thereupon commissioned a chapel to built at the entrance to the cave and did not consecrate it because Michael had already done so. The church came to be known as the Celestial Basilica.
St. Michael made another appearance here in 1656 during a great plague. The local bishop invoked St. Michael for protection, and the archangel appeared to him. The plague then ceased, and the mountain shrine became more popular than ever.
The sanctuary has been a popular place of pilgrimage for many centuries: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Gerard Majella, St. William of Vercelli and six popes have made the pilgrimage here to ask for St. Michael's protection.
What to See
Monte Sant'Angelo is located in the hills on the Gargono promontory, on the east coast of south-central Italy (the "spur" of the boot). The exterior is fairly unassuming, marked by an octagonal 13th-century campanile and a white facade with two portals.
But from the small courtyard on the right, a flight of stone steps leads down into the atmospheric church incorporating the cave in which St. Michael appeared. The main church and the areas that lead to it are decorated with remains of medieval frescoes and sculptures.
Near the Sanctuary of St. Michael are the ruins of the Chiesa di San Pietro (sadly closed for renovations when we visited in April 2008), behind which is the interesting Tomba di Rotari, an imposing domed tower. The Tomba is traditionally believed to be the tomb of Rothari, a 7th-century Lombard chieftain who converted to Christianity, but it is probably a 12th-century baptistery. There is a large baptismal font on the right as you enter the tower, and a rose window featuring entwined mermaids.
Quick Facts on Monte Sant'Angelo
|Names:||Monte Sant'Angelo Shrine; Shrine of St. Michael|
|Categories:||Shrines; Catholic Shrines|
|Dates:||mostly 13th C|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||41.706277° N, 15.959943° E (view on Google Maps)|
|Lodging:||View hotels near this location|
Map of Monte Sant'Angelo
Below is a location map and aerial view of Monte Sant'Angelo. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.
- Personal visit (March 31, 2008).
- R. Jan Bogacki, Saint Michael Shrine on the Gargano, 5th ed. (2007).
- Kevin J. Wright, Catholic Shrines of Western Europe: A Pilgrim's Travel Guide (1997), 164-67.
- Rough Guide to Italy 7 (2005), 934.
|Link code:||<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/monte-sant-angelo">Monte Sant'Angelo</a>|