Monte Sant Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo, Via Reale Basilica, Monte Sant'Angelo, Province of Foggia, Italy

Website of the Sanctuary

+39 0884.561150

St. Michael Basilica is open all year round

Monte Sant Angelo, home to the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael and associated with apparitions  of the archangel that took place in the 4th century.

First Apparition

The first apparition, known as the bull episode, is dated 490; it is the most astonishing and tells the story of a rich lord who went in search of a bull of his herds, lost in the Gargano area; at last he found it on the top of the mountain kneeling down at the opening of a cave.

Filled with anger, he shot an arrow against the rebellious animal, but instead of hitting the bull the arrow unaccountably wounded the foot of the wealthy man.

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

Upset by the event, he went to see the Bishop who, after listening to the account of the extraordinary adventure, ordered three days of prayers and penance.

As the third day ended, the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop and spoke to him:

“I am the Archangel Michael and I am always in the presence of God. The cavern is sacred to me, I have chosen it; I myself am its watchful custodian… There where the rock opens wide the sins of men can be forgiven… What is asked here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go to the mountain and dedicate the grotto to the Christian religion”.

Second Apparition

The second apparition, known as the victory episode, is linked to a memorable victory of the town of Siponto against the enemy troops; the complete victory, foretold by the Archangel during His apparition to the holy Bishop Lawrence Maiorano, took place on May 8th and the Longobards attributed it to the intercession and help of the Archangel.

Third Apparition

The third apparition, also called the Dedication episode, is linked to the beginning of the cult on the Gargano when all the Apulian bishops went in procession to the holy grotto and they found that a primitive altar had already been erected, as announced by the Archangel to Lawrence Maiorano; moreover, according to the legend, they found St. Michael’s footprint in the rock.

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

The History of the Monte Sant Angelo Gargano

Gargano is one of the most advanced eastward land of Italy and so, thanks to its geographical position and the fame acquired for these apparitions, the Byzantines held it under their dominion together with some other regions of the Adriatic coast.

During this period the Sanctuary structure was very different from the current one. Pilgrims arrived at the shrine from the Carbonara valley through a portico and a gallery that gave on to the irregular and deep cavern.

Then, in this period, according to the oriental liturgy, St. Michael was venerated as the one who presents the souls of dead to the divine throne and as a healer of illnesses (Apollo was a healer god) rather than as a great warrior.

It was very famous the so-called “drop”: a miraculous water that dripped from the rock of the cavern and, according to the tales, healed every kind of diseases.

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

Archangel Saint Michael

Saint Michael has the title of Archangel attributed to Him, the same title given to Gabriel (God’s strength) and Raphael (God heals).

In the New Testament, the Archangel Saint Michael is presented as the adversary of the devil, victor of the last battle against Satan and his supporters.

We find the description of the battle and his victory in the Chapter 12 of the Apocalypse:

“And there was a battle in heaven; Michael and His angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. And they did non prevail neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent he who is called the devil and Satan, who leads astray the whole world; and he was cast down to the earth and with him his angels were cast down.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying. Now has come the salvation, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ for the accuser of our brethren has been cast down, he who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their witness, for they did not love their lives even in face of death. Therefore rejoice, oh heavens, and you who dwell therein. Woe to the earth and to the sea because the devil has gone down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.” (Rev 12, 7-12).

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

Therefore Christians consider the Archangel Saint Michael as the most powerful defender of God’s people.

In eastern and western iconography, St. Michael is represented as a warrior, with a sword or a lance in his hand and, under his feet the dragon, monster, Satan defeated in battle.

From centuries believers have entrusted themselves to His protection here on earth, but also in a particular way at the moment of judgment, according to an ancient invocation: “Saint Michael, defend us in the day of the battle, lest we perish on the day of judgement”. The Archangel is also acknowledged to be the guide of souls to Heaven.

This role of St. Michael is underlined in the Roman liturgy, particularly at the Offertory of the Mass for the dead: “O Lord Jesus Christ King of glory deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell; but may the holy standard-bearer Saint Michael, lead them to the holy light; which you promised to Abraham and to his seed of old”.

Tradition also gives St. Michael the task of the weighing the souls after death.

That is why he is sometimes represented holding a pair of scales as well as a sword. Moreover, in the first centuries of Christianity, especially amongst the Byzantines, St. Michael was considered a heavenly doctor of men’s infirmities.

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

He was often identified with the Angel of the pool of Bethesda whom the Chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. John says: “Now there is at Jerusalem, by the Sheep Gate, a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these were lying a great multitude of the sick, blind, lame and those with shrivelled limbs, waiting for the moving of the water.

For an angel of the Lord used to come down at certain times into the pool, and the water was troubled. And the first to go down into the pool after the troubling of the water was cured of whatever infirmity he had” (St. John 5,2-4).

The AKATISTO, which is a hymn of the Byzantine liturgy dedicated to the Archangel Saint Michael, sings in this way: “You not only defeated the great and horrible dragon in the shrine of Chone but a water course formed that heals all the infirmities of the body”.

Finally, St. Michael has the unusual privilege of assisting at the throne of the Divine Majesty. He presented himself like this to Bishop Lawrence: “I am Michael and I am always in the presence of God…”.

And the liturgy of the Council of Trento whilst offering incense, prayed in the following way: “Through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel who is at the right-hand of the altar of incense… deign to accept and bless this offering of incense…”.

Today the Church celebrates St. Michael’s Day together with St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, on September 29th.

In the past there were two liturgical feast-days in honour of the Archangel (that are still celebrated in the town of Monte Sant’Angelo): on September 29th, a feast-day that was first celebrated only in Rome, as a remembrance of the dedication of an old Basilica erected in his honour on the Via Salaria; the other on May 8th, anniversary of the apparition of St. Michael to the Bishop of Siponto on the Gargano and in a special way to celebrate the victory of the Sipontini army against the invaders (2nd Apparition).

From the 11th century on, these two special anniversaries of the Gargano Shrine spread all over Europe. In the Middle Ages were both connected with the Gargano:

  • May 8th: anniversary of the apparitions;
  • September 29th: dedication of the Basilica.

Pope Pious V (1566-1572) instituted the feast-day of the apparition of St. Michael on 8th May.

A lot of churches, chapels and oratories were dedicated to St. Michael in the whole of Europe.

The Archangel is often represented on the spires of bell-towers, because He is considered the guardian of churches against Satan. Furthermore lots of the ossuary chapels in cemeteries are dedicated to him. Many cities in Europe (Jena, Andemach, Colmar) venerate Him as their patron saint; in Italy we find more than 60 localities under His protection (Caserta, Cuneo, Alghero, Albenga, Vasto…).

Mass times

Archangel’s Cave

Holidays
Solar time is 7.30, 9.00, 10.30, 12.00, 15.30, 16.30, 18.00
Summer time 7.30, 9.00, 10.30, 12.00, 16.00, 17.30, 19.00

Weekdays
Solar time 8.00, 9.30, 11.00
Legal time 8.00, 9.30, 11.00, 16.30

Madonna Church of the Free

Weekdays
Solar Time 17.30
Summer time 18.00

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

The Crypts and Devotional Museum

Opening hours: 9.00 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 16.30, 19.00 (summer time)

Sanctuary Openings

From 29th April to 7th May: Novena for St. Michael’s Feast-Day

On 8th May: Feast of St. Michael Archangel’s Apparitions on the Gargano

  • Holy Masses: h. 7.00am – 9.00am – 10.30am – 12.00pm – 4.00pm – 5.30pm – 7.00pm
  • 10.30am Solemn Eucharist Celebration

From 19th to 27th September: Novena for St. Michael’s Feast-Day

On 28th September

  • 6.00pm: Solemn Eucharist Celebration with the traditional offerings of wax candles and typical local products by the Local Government of Monte Sant’Angelo

On 29th September

  • St. Michael Archangel’s Feast-Day
  • Holy Masses: h. 6.15am – 7.00am – 9.00am – 10.00am – 12.00pm – 7.00pm
  • 10.30am: Solemn Eucharist Celebration
  • 5.00pm: Procession

On 30th September

  • 6.00pm: Solemn Eucharist Celebration for the benefactors and devotees of St. Michael

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

Holidays
Solar time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 18.00
Summer time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 19.00

Weekdays
Solar Time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 17.00
Legal time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 19.00

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

The Crypt

The “crypts” are composed of two rooms whose structures had to be made in two phases following immediately one after the other.

Some of the wall inscriptions, identified in 1974, have made it possible date the constructions from the end of the 7th to the beginning of the 8th century. The crypts, about 60mt. long, extend up to beneath the floor of the Basilica.

The first room, about 45mt. long, comes up to the mighty supporting wall on which, in the upper part, the famous Bronze Doors rest.

This first part seems like an arcade, made up of eight rectangular spans, communicating with each other through transversal arches, that detach from large pillars that jut out from the side walls. It is all covered with a barrel vault. Besides, during the work undertaken by the Benedictine Fathers in 1975, was discovered a mortuary cell with two sarcophaguses, one of them has not been opened; it has got a cover in mortar and a graffito cross dated 7th-8th century.

In this suggestive room, various sculptures from the excavations of the shrine, from the ex-church of St. Peter and from the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary of Pulsano have been put on exhibition. All the finds exhibited here are dated from the 7th-8th century up to the 15th century.

Throughout the visit, pilgrims can admire a variety of finds that, once more, give witness to the glorious history of this place.

Here are some of the most significant ones:

  • the coat of arms of the City of Monte Sant’Angelo that dates back to 1401;
  • different architectural elements (11th-12th century) such as fragments of columns, mullions in local stone, decorative elements;
  • a Madonna and Child dated 15th century;
  • a statue of St. Michael of the first half the 16th century;
  • a statue of the Saviour dated 15th century;
  • a font decorated with biblical scenes;
  • various fragments of a pulpit, among which an eagle – dated 11th century – with lectern made in the atelier of local sculptor, Archdeacon Acceptus; fragments of pluteus (10th-11th century);
  • a funeral cross (8th century);
  • another sculpture representing St. Michael (14th century);
  • an Angel with a standard (10th-11th century);
  • a praying Christ (11th-12th century) and, of the same period, a headless Madonna.

In one of the small rooms are housed some spiral columns with capitals dated 10th-11th century, a stiliforo lion of the same period, a paving-stone (8th-9th century); slabs of terra-cotta for tomb coverings, attributed by some to the 8th-9th century, by others to the Roman era; finally some fragments of paving-stone with graffiti that go back to the year 1066.

Passing through the opening excavated in the sustaining wall of the Bronze Doors, we find ourselves in the other room of the Longobard epoch, divided into two large naves, each one of them made up of a central flight of three round arches, and delimited at the north and south by other arches sustained by massive pillars.

The roofing of this room was supposed to have been composed of a barrel vault sustained by transversal arches. The two naves were occupied by stairs: the one on the right has a curvilinear trend and is preserved integrally in its course; the one to the left had a rectilinear trend, but was completely destroyed during the work.

Monte Sant’ Angelo Gargano and the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel

The two stairs ended into a small floor, delimited to the east by an apse with an altar made up of squared blocks with traces of numerous inscriptions, to the north by some rooms whose entries were obstructed, and to the south by two entrances that gave onto the rocky slope opposite the grotto.

To the left of the altar a fresco called the “Custos Ecclesiae” has been discovered, protected by stone slabs that can be attributed to the 10th century. At present it is exhibited in the Conference Hall. From the remains of the frescoes and from the numerous inscriptions on the walls, we can understand the importance of the Shrine, especially for the Longobards.

These rooms were definitely separated from the Sacred Grotto towards the years 1270-1275, when the Angevins gave the current arrangement with the new constructions, sacrificing the preceding works built in honour of St. Michael Archangel.

Devotional Museum

It was born in 1989 with the aim of gathering, cataloguing and displaying the different objects that witness the fervent devotion of many generations to St. Michael.

A large part of it is made up of gifts offered to the Sanctuary by both famous and unknown pilgrims, most of them were given as a sign of recognition for graces received throughout the multi-century history of this shrine.

These feelings are particularly expressed through the “ex-voto” in the form of paintings that “visually” tell about the graces and miracles obtained through the intercession of the Archangel.

The treasured objects are many and varied.

The most precious ones are the liturgical vestments, chalices, crosses, silver lamps, censers, little boats, candelabra, reliquaries: objects accumulated for the most part during the last two centuries.

Also very interesting are:

  • a series of archaeological exhibits, donated by dr. Philip Prencipe;
  • the collection of coins and medals, among them there are some Greek coins which date back to the 6th-3rd centuries BC;
  • copies of some panels of the Bronze Doors of the Sanctuary, reproduced on slabs of stone (18th-19th century).

Source and photos: Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel www.santuariosanmichele.it

Monte Sant’ Angelo, home to the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael and associated with apparitions  of the archangel that took place in the 4th century.

The Crypts and Devotional Museum

Opening hours: 9.00 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 16.30, 19.00 (summer time)

Sanctuary Openings

From 29th April to 7th May: Novena for St. Michael’s Feast-Day

On 8th May: Feast of St. Michael Archangel’s Apparitions on the Gargano

  • Holy Masses: h. 7.00am – 9.00am – 10.30am – 12.00pm – 4.00pm – 5.30pm – 7.00pm
  • 10.30am Solemn Eucharist Celebration

From 19th to 27th September: Novena for St. Michael’s Feast-Day

On 28th September

  • 6.00pm: Solemn Eucharist Celebration with the traditional offerings of wax candles and typical local products by the Local Government of Monte Sant’Angelo

On 29th September

  • St. Michael Archangel’s Feast-Day
  • Holy Masses: h. 6.15am – 7.00am – 9.00am – 10.00am – 12.00pm – 7.00pm
  • 10.30am: Solemn Eucharist Celebration
  • 5.00pm: Procession

On 30th September

  • 6.00pm: Solemn Eucharist Celebration for the benefactors and devotees of St. Michael

Holidays
Solar time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 18.00
Summer time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 19.00

Weekdays
Solar Time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 17.00
Legal time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 19.00

Mass times

Archangel’s Cave

Holidays
Solar time is 7.30, 9.00, 10.30, 12.00, 15.30, 16.30, 18.00
Summer time 7.30, 9.00, 10.30, 12.00, 16.00, 17.30, 19.00

Weekdays
Solar time 8.00, 9.30, 11.00
Legal time 8.00, 9.30, 11.00, 16.30

Madonna Church of the Free

Weekdays
Solar Time 17.30
Summer time 18.00

Holidays
Solar time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 18.00
Summer time 8.00 – 12.30 and 15.00 – 19.00

Weekdays
Solar Time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 17.00
Legal time 8.15 – 12.15 and 15.00 – 19.00

In eastern and western iconography, St. Michael is represented as a warrior, with a sword or a lance in his hand and, under his feet the dragon, monster, Satan defeated in battle.

From centuries believers have entrusted themselves to His protection here on earth, but also in a particular way at the moment of judgment, according to an ancient invocation: “Saint Michael, defend us in the day of the battle, lest we perish on the day of judgement”. The Archangel is also acknowledged to be the guide of souls to Heaven.

This role of St. Michael is underlined in the Roman liturgy, particularly at the Offertory of the Mass for the dead: “O Lord Jesus Christ King of glory deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell; but may the holy standard-bearer Saint Michael, lead them to the holy light; which you promised to Abraham and to his seed of old”.

Tradition also gives St. Michael the task of the weighing the souls after death.

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