|Location:||Ceglie Messapica, 2 km southest on the SP26|
|Classification:||Karst cave. Cave Church|
|Accessibility:||not accessible, steep irregular staircase|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|2009||property sold to an English couple.|
The Cripta Basiliana di San Michele is a cave church dedicated to the arcangel San Michele (St. Michael). It is located at the SP26 2 km southest of the city center of Ceglie Messapica. The cave is a single huge chamber with a collapse to one side and a staircase leading down the slope of the collapse debris. The whole chamber is very well decorated with speleothems. It is 50 m long, 25 m wide and has a height of 15 m.
The staircase ends at a bare wall with a stone altar and frescoes at the cave wall showing Christo Pantocratore, San Michele Arcangelo, and Madonna Orante. Actually the term frescoes is wrong, as there was never fresh plaster. It would be better to call the pictures wall paintings. The last picture is the considered the oldest picture of the Madonna found in Salento and is from the 8th century.
The cave churh uses only one half of the cave. A staircase leads to the right where half of the cave is almost untouched. The floor is covered by a layer of bat guano, which is probably a reason why it was not used for the church.
It seems the whole cave with church, togeteher with the surrounding ground has been sold to a British couple. The Comune di Ceglie Messapica had a veto right, but they refused to buy first. So actually we do not know if this church is stil accessible.