|Location:||Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano|
All year daily.
|Address:||Santuario S. Michele Arcangelo, Padri Micheliti, 71037 Monte S.Angelo (FG), Tel: +39-08845-61150, Fax: +39-08845-68126. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|490||first apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.|
|08-MAY-492||second apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.|
|493||third apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.|
|22-SEP-1656||fourth apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.|
|~1000||Monte Sant'Angelo founded.|
|1273/74||octagonal campanile built above the church.|
|1395||entrance hall built.|
|24-MAY-1987||visited by Pope Johannes Paul II.|
|Image: the main cave church.|
Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano is the name of a village, located at the southern coast of the Gargano peninsula, built on top of a mountain ridge which runs east to west. To the south there is a beautiful view to the sea 400m below, to the north is a steep cliff going down to a pleasant valley with some agriculture, and the National Park Foresta Umbra on the other side, a remains of the natural forests of Italy with typical mediterranean vegetation.
This pleasant spot was never a good place to settle, because of the steep cliffs all around, but it was used by sheperds to graze their sheep or goats or cows. Natural caves in the northern cliff face were used as shelter for the animals. The biggest of the caves was used as a shelter by the herders.
According to legend the first appearance happened with a stray bull. The animal used to graze alone and avoid the other animals, and as it did not return to the barn one evening, the owner and his servants were looking for it. After some search they found it on top of the mountain, in front of a cave. At this time the owner was already so angry about the bull, he took his bow and shot at it with an arrow. But a strong and sudden wind turnd the arrow around and it hit the archer instead. He went to the bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and told him the whole story. The bishop ordered three days of prayer and fasting, and at the end Archangel Michael appeared and spoke: "You have done well to ask God what was hidden to men. Make it clear that everything happens for my will as I am the Archangel Michael. The cave is sacred to me and I decided to protect this place and its inhabitants. What will be asked for in prayer will be answered here. Go to the mountain and dedicate the cave to Christian worship." But the mountain was almost inaccessible and known as a place of pagan worship, so the bishop hesitated to obey the words of the Archangel.
The second appearance is traditionally dated to the year 492, but historically the battle between the Byzantines and the Lombards happened from 662 to 663. During this war the Greek attacked the shrine on the Gargano, which was defended by Grimoaldo I, Duke of Benevento. In the night before the battle, the Archangel Michael appeared again to the bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and told him that his prayers would be answered. He was told to start the battle at the fourth hour of the day. When the Lombards did so, the battle was accompanied by earthquakes, lightning, and thunderbolts, and ended with the success of Grimoaldo. This day, the 08-MAY, became the feastday called the Apparition of St. Michael.
In the year after the victory, bishop Maiorano decided to obey the arcangel and consecrate a church inside the cave. The night before, he had the third appearance of the archangel who said: "I have built the church [the cave] and I have consecrated it, this is not your task. But the people may come and frequent the place which is under my protection." And so bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and seven other bishops of Apulia walked to the shrine. Once inside the cave they found a crude altar covered by a crimson mantle and surmounted by a cross. In front of the altar was a footprint on the floor which was though to be from Arcangel Michael. As a result of this day this cave is a church, which is not consecrated by human hands. It is called Celeste Basilica (heavenly basilica).
|Image: the original cliff face with hermits' caves.|
The fourth appearance happened in 1656, when Italy was hit by the plague. Archbishop Alfonso Puccinelli went to the cave to pray and fast. At the dawn of 22-SEP-1656 he felt an earthquake and then St. Michael appeared to him. He ordered him to bless the stones of his cave carving on them the sign of the cross and the letters MA (Michael). Anyone who with such a stone would be saved from the plague. The city was was liberated from the plague and everyone who had such a stone survived too.
Today there is a sanctuary built on top of the cave. It is entered from the streets of the village on the top of the hill. There is an entrance building and a belfry. Inside the entrance a staircase starts, leading down to the level of the cave. An atrium leads to the entrance of the basilika with its bronze doors. The cave is located at the far end of the basilika. It contains the altar of St Michael and is used as a church until today.
At the foot of the staircase there is a second building on the other side, which contains a part of the original cliff face. It is full of artificial caves which were dug into the soft rock. They are interpreted as cells of hermits.
This place is actually a catholic church, and as such it is open daily and for free to all visitors. However, appropriate manners and clothing is expected, so bring decent shirts and shoes if you want to enter.