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Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo

Coordinates: 41°42′27.8″N 15°57′17.2″E / 41.707722°N 15.954778°E / 41.707722; 15.954778
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel. A part of the tower is visible on the right.

The Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel (Italian: Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo) is a Roman Catholic shrine on Mount Gargano, Italy, part of the commune of Monte Sant'Angelo, in the province of Foggia, northern Apulia. It has the dignity of a minor basilica.[1]

It is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael and has been an important site of pilgrimage since the early Middle Ages. The historic site and its environs are protected by the Parco Nazionale del Gargano.

In 2011, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy: Places of Power (568-774 A.D.).

Legendary history


The earliest account of the foundation of the Sanctuary is a composite Latin hagiographical text known as Liber de apparitione Sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano (Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina 5948).[2]

There are three sections to the legend, recording three apparitions of Michael: the first and third sections appear to be part of the same narrative, while the second is possibly the account of a battle half a century later. According to the first and last parts of the legend, around the year 490 the Archangel Michael appeared several times to the Bishop of Sipontum near a cave in the mountains, instructing that the cave be dedicated to Christian worship and promising protection of the nearby town of Sipontum from pagan invaders. These apparitions are also the first appearances of Saint Michael in western Europe.

The second section of the text describes Michael's intercession on behalf of the Sipontans and the Beneventans against invading pagan Neapolitans. On the eve of the battle, Michael appeared with flaming sword atop the mountain; the Sipontans and Beneventans were victorious. Giorgio Otranto[3] identifies this battle as the one recorded in Book 4 of Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards,[4] which describes the defense of Mount Gargano against unidentified 'Greeks' – possibly Byzantine Greeks – by the Lombard Duke of Benevento, Grimoald I, on 8 May 663.

In commemoration of this victory, the church of Sipontum instituted a special feast on May 8 honoring the Archangel, which then spread throughout the Western Christendom during the 9th century. Since the time of Pius V it has been formalized as Apparitio Sancti Michaelis, although it originally did not commemorate the apparition but the victory of the Lombards over invading Greeks.

Pope Gelasius I (reigned 492–496) directed that a basilica should be erected enclosing the space. The Basilica di San Giovanni in Tumba is the final resting-place of the Lombard King Rothari (died 652); the designation "tumba" is now applied to the cupola on squinches.[5]


The octagonal tower (campanile) of the Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel.

The place has been venerated since 490, the year in which, according to tradition, the first apparition of the archangel Michael took place on the Gargano at San Lorenzo Maiorano.[6] A first sanctuary was built in 493 on the cave where the apparition took place and from the 7th century the garganica area in which the sanctuary stood, became part of the Lombards domains as it was included in the territories of the Duchy of Benevento.

The work of conversion of the Lombards, already begun in 589 by Queen Theodelinda,[7] was completed under the reign of Cunipert;[8][9] The cult of Michael thus developed within a context of archaic religiosity,[10] in which the veneration of those saints perceived as akin to the deities of ancestry Norse of the Germanic tradition found a great following.[clarification needed] The Archangel Michael was in fact attributed the same warrior virtues once worshipped in Odin, the Germanic god of war, guide to the afterlife, as well as the protector of heroes and warriors.[11][12]

Over time, various religious buildings were dedicated to St. Michael, in particular in the territory of the Duchy of Benevento, where the first epicenter of the cult of Michael among the Lombards was the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel and from which it spread throughout the Lombard Kingdom until it was soon considered the patron saint of the entire people.[12][13]

The Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel thus became the main center of veneration of the archangel in the entire West, a typological model for all the others. It was the object of monumental patronage of both the dukes of Benevento and the kings of Pavia, who promoted numerous renovations to facilitate access to the cave of the first apparition and to accommodate pilgrims. The Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel thus became one of the main pilgrimage destinations of Christianity, a stop on that variant of the Via Francigena now called Via Sacra Langobardorum that led to Holy Land.[9] In fact, the sanctuary is one of the three major European places of worship named after St. Michael, together with the sacra di San Michele in Val di Susa, and the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey in Normandy. The alignment of these three geographical sites on a straight line, separated by the same distance.[14] Other further Michael sites would seem to be found extending this line to the northwest and southeast, fueling the legend of the so-called "sacred line of St. Michael the Archangel", which would have it produced by the sword blow inflicted by the Archangel on Satan to send him back to hell as narrated in the Book of Revelation.[15] In fact, as with other Temporary Lines, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that such an alignment was planned and has any real significance, thus making pseudoscientific the claim, despite the fact that it is commonly reported on these sites. Physicist Luca Amendola has observed that the deviation of these sites from the rhumb line (although it would be more correct to speak of orthodromic line) that would connect them varies between 14-42 km. It is therefore likely that the alignment is a coincidence, favored by the high density of religious buildings that Europe presents and the importance of St. Michael in Christianity.[16][17][18]

The sanctuary is connected with the city of Lucca for some important facts, such as the presence of the bishop of Lucca Alfonso Puccinelli, who also witnessed the apparition of St. Michael in 1656. In Lucca, in the church of San Michele in Foro, there is also a statue very similar to the one in the sanctuary of San Michele, donated by Bishop Puccinelli to the Republic of Lucca as a symbol of thanksgiving to the city of origin, after the apparition of 1656.

After the fall of the Lombard Kingdom in 774 the sanctuary retained its important function within the Langobardia Minor, still within the Duchy of Benevento which in that same year was raised, on the initiative of Arechi II, to the rank of principality. When Benevento also fell during the 11th century, the sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel was taken care of first by the Normans, then by the Swabians and the Angevins, who in turn linked themselves to the cult of Michael and further intervened on the structure of the sanctuary itself, modifying its upper part and enriching it with new decorative apparatus.[9]


The Saint Michael Archangel grotto in 1965. Photo Paolo Monti
Saint Michael's grotto in 2017.

The complex of buildings consists of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Tumba, damaged in 1942, and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The baptistery presents a rectangular storey on which rests an octagon supporting an elliptical section and a high drum that supports the cupola. The church erected in the eleventh century by Archbishop Leone stands upon the remains of an ancient necropolis. A few remnants attest to its once-rich fresco decoration.

The Castello was enlarged by the Normans upon an episcopal residence of Orso, Bishop of Benevento, to provide a suitable seat for the Honor Montis Sancti Angeli, further modified by Frederick II.[19] The massive, octagonal campanile was built in the late 13th century by Frederick II as a watchtower. It was turned into a bell tower by Charles I of Anjou.

Behind a forecourt the sanctuary presents a portico of two Gothic arches, the right one of 1395 by the local architect Simone, the left one a reconstruction of 1865. From the portico steps lead down to the low arched nave. The cavern can be accessed from a Romanesque portal, called the Portale del Toro ("Gate of the Bull"): the doors, in bronze, were made in Constantinople in 1076, the donation of an Amalfitan noble. They are divided into 24 panels portraying episodes of angels from the Old and New Testaments.

The archaic cavern opening to the left, with its holy well, is full of votive offerings, especially the 12th century marble bishop's throne supported on crouching lions.[20] Among the ex voto objects is a statue of the Archangel by Andrea Sansovino.

Statue of Saint Michael overlooking the entrance of the Sanctuary.
  1. The Bell Tower
  2. The upper Atrium
  3. The staircase
  4. The internal atrium
  5. The Choir
  6. The Chapel of the Cross
  7. The Altar of the Blessed Sacrament
  8. The Angevin Nave
  9. The Cave of San Michele
  10. The Episcopal Chair
  11. The Altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
  12. The Crypts
  13. Museum
  14. The Stone Quarry[21]



Monte Sant'Angelo was a popular pilgrimage site on the way to Jerusalem; pilgrims travelled from as far as Ireland to visit the “Celestial Basilica”. Among the pilgrims who visited the Saint Michael Archangel Sanctuary were many popes (Gelasius I, Leo IX, Urban II, Alexander III, Gregory X, Celestine V, John XXIII as Cardinal, John Paul II), saints (Bridget of Sweden, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas), emperors, kings, and princes (Louis II of Italy, Otto III, Henry II, Matilda of Tuscany, Charles I of Naples, Ferdinand II of Aragon).

Francis of Assisi also visited the Sanctuary, but, feeling unworthy to enter the grotto, stopped in prayer and meditation at the entrance, kissed a stone, and carved on it the sign of the cross in the form “T” (tau).

The guardians


Since 13 July 1996, the pastoral care of Saint Michael Archangel Sanctuary has been given to the Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel.

See also



  • Arnold, J.C. "Arcadia Becomes Jerusalem: Angelic Caverns and Shrine Conversion at Monte Gargano." Speculum vol. 75 (July 2000), pp. 567–88
  • N. Everett, "The Liber de apparitione S. Michaelis in Monte Gargano and the hagiography of dispossession", Analecta Bollandiana 120 (2002), 364–391. (Argues that the Liber reflects conflict between the churches of Siponto and Benevento over control of the Gargano shrine, and that the Liber dates c.663-750).
  • Nicholas Everett, Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy AD 350-800 (PIMS / Durham University Press, 2016), pp. 73–83 (Eng. trans of Liber and commentary).
  • Piccardi L., "Paleoseismic evidence of legendary earthquakes: the apparition of Archangel Michael at Monte Sant’Angelo (Italy)." Tectonophysics vol. 408 (2005), 113–128.


  1. ^ Catholic.org Basilicas in Italy
  2. ^ Ed. by G. Waitz in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum (Havover 1898), pp. 541-43; reprinted, with an English translation, in Richard F. Johnson, Saint Michael the Archangel in Medieval English Legend (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2005), pp. 110-15.
  3. ^ Otranto, Giorgio. "'Il Liber de Apparitione,' il santuario di san Michele sul Gargano e i Longobardi del Ducato di Benevento." In Santuari e politica nel mondo antico, 210-245. Milan: 1983.
  4. ^ Paul the Deacon, Historia Langobardi. In Monumenta Germanica Historica: Scriptores Rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum. Edited by Ludwig Bethmann and Georg Waitz. Hanover, 1878.
  5. ^ "La Tomba di Rotari è un battistero del XII secolo con copertura a cupola (o Tumba)." [1]
  6. ^ "-Santuario San Michele". Archived from the original on 2013-09-23.
  7. ^ M. Vannucci, 1994.
  8. ^ A. Magnani, J. Godoy, 1998.
  9. ^ a b c "Italia Langobardorum. Centers of power and worship (568-774 A.D.)" (PDF). City of Cividale del Friuli. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  10. ^ Jarnut, p. 70, 2002.
  11. ^ Paul the Deacon, Liber I, 8. April 2024.
  12. ^ a b G. Schartz and E. Abegg, 1929 & pp. 959–970.
  13. ^ F. Paoli, 2000
  14. ^ "The fascinating history of the Line of St. Michael". St. Francis - Magazine of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Retrieved 2024-01-19.
  15. ^ Rev 12:7–12
  16. ^ Luca Amendola (4 January 2016). "Luke Skywalker and the St. Michael Axis". Archived from the original on 21 September 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  17. ^ "La Sacra linea di San Michele Arcangelo e la TAV". 2 October 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  18. ^ "St. Michael Alignment is England's Most Famous Ley Line. But is it Real?". Big Think. 16 August 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  19. ^ Itinerari turistici Monte Sant' Angelo – Gargano Archived 2007-02-24 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ The votive offerings have been studied in Giovanni Battista Bronzini, Ex voto e Santuari in Puglia: 1. Il Gargano (Florence:Olschki) 1993.
  21. ^ "Monte Sant'Angelo - Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo". www.byitaly.org. Retrieved 2024-01-19.

41°42′27.8″N 15°57′17.2″E / 41.707722°N 15.954778°E / 41.707722; 15.954778