A couple of years ago, while researching online, I came across the Sacred cave of Mont. Saint Angelo where St. Michael the Archangel appeared a couple of times. It interested me a lot being devoted to the Holy Angels and vowed that one day I will visit the place.
|Facade of the church which was built over the cave where Archangel Michael appeared thrice.|
With God’s grace, the opportunity arose last December when I had the chance to once again visit Italy. The Shrine of St. Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo was part of our itinerary and since Gargano where the cave of St. Michael is located, is just a few minutes from the place, I included it in our trip. This is where Archangel Michael is said to have appeared in 490, 492 and 1656 and consecrated the shrine himself.
How it began
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: I am Michael the Archangel and am always in the presence of God. I chose the cave that is sacred to me. There will be no more shedding of bull’s blood.
Where the rocks open widely, the sins of men may be pardoned. What is asked here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go up to the mountain cave and dedicate it to the Christian God! (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: It is not necessary that you dedicate this church that I have consecrated with my presence. Enter and pray with my assistance and celebrate the Sacrifice. I will show you how I have consecrated this place.
When Pope John Paul II visited Monte Saint Angelo in 1987
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.
|Photographs are not allowed inside but this was the best rendition of the sacred cave I was able to shoot.|
I love small quaint villages, with small streets and decorative windows and doors. I would have loved to stay overnight and just explore the streets of this small town. Here are some of the photos I took while waiting for the church to open.