Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Image: Looking east at high water in 1900, Mont St. Michel, France.
Author: Photoglob AG, Zürich, Switzerland or Detroit Publishing Company, Detroit, Michigan.
Mont Saint-Michel is the name of a comune and a tidal island in Normandy, famous among the pilgrims throughout many centuries and called the Wonder of the Western World.
According to the legend, the Bishop of Avranches comune founded a small church on the rock in 709, following the order of the Archangel Michael, who had appeared to him. In the late 10th century a community of Benedictines settled at the place, building a bigger church and an abbey around it. Soon it became one of the most important sites for pilgrimage, crowds of people went there by so-called “paths to paradise”, following St Michael’s assurance of eternal life after death.
During the Hundred Years’ War the fortifications were built around the Abbey to protect it during the siege lasting 30 years. The constructions suffered a lot at the time of the French Revolution and Empire, and the Abbey was used as a prison, restored only by the end of the 19th century.
UNESCO has classed the Mont Saint-Michel as a world heritage in 1979 and this mecca of tourism
welcomes more than three million visitors a year.
Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel, mount Gargano, comune Monte S.Angelo, Italy
Image: Sanctuary of St Michael the Arcangel at Monte Sant'Angelo (FG).
This Catholic sanctuary is considered the oldest shrine dedicated to St Michael in the West. Founded in the 5-6th centuries, according to the legend, it has been a famous pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages.
There are four legends about apparitions of St Michael at Gargano. The most spread one tells about a rich man Garganus which had a lot of sheep and beasts. One day one of his bulls fled to the mountain, and could not be found. Soon people discovered the cave where he was hiding, and shot an arrow inside, but it returned and struck the one who had sent it. People decided to consult the bishop of the region. He ordered three days of fasting and prayers, and after three days the Archangel Michael appeared to the bishop and declared that Garganus had such a misfortune by Michael’s will, that the cave of the bull was under his protection, and that God wanted it to be consecrated under his name and in honor of all Holy Angels. Bishop went with people to the cave, which had already the form of a church. The divine mysteries were celebrated there, and a magnificent temple of the divine Power arose there.
Image: Apparition of Archangel Michael at Mount Gargano, by Domenico Cresti (Il Passignano), Badia a Passignano. 1602.
The second apparition of the Angel is traditionally referred to the battle between Byzantines and Lombards of the 7th century, when the Sanctuary was attacked by the Greeks, and Michael appeared to the Bishop in response to his prayers with a promise to interfere and help to defeat the enemy. On the following day the Lombards celebrated victory.
The third legend narrates about the “Dedication apparition”, when the bishops wanted to consecrate the church, but Michael appeared to one of them in a vision and told that he himself had created the church, and he himself would consecrate it. In the morning they found an altar erected, with a cross on it, and a footprint of the Archangel, imprinted on the rock. For centuries the cave was called “celestial church” as the only place not consecrated by people.
Another apparition of Michael saved the whole town from the plague. By the legend, in answer to the prayers of the local Bishop, Michael gave him instructions to bless the stones of the cave by carving a cross and initials MA on each. People who kept those stones with them, would have been saved from the disease. Soon the town was liberated from the epidemic. To honour this rescue, the Bishop erected a monument of St Michael in the town.
Michael was venerated as the healer of diseases and the one who submitted the souls of the deceased to the divine throne. The water dripping along the rocks of the cave was also considered to have healing properties. With time, being an important center of the religious politics and becoming more and more popular among the pilgrims, the bigger church was constructed above the cave. Today a special passage leads to the original cave church.
Saint Michael’s Abbey (Sacra di San Michele), comune Sant'Ambrogio di Torino, Piemonte, Italy
Image © and source http://www.sacradisanmichele.com
The Sacra was founded between 983 and 987 on the Mount Pirchiriano. According to the historical evidences, in the end of the 10th century a monk of Camaldolese order (from the Benedictine family) settled on the Mount Pirchiriano as a hermit. Once his hermit life was interrupted by Count Hugh of Montboissier, who arrived whit a task from the Pope to build and abbey there, as a penance for his questionable past. So the Abbey was built, and the Benedictine monks established their community there, developed later in monastery complex and important pilgrimage centre. For centuries it has been a midpoint of a pilgrimage route from Mont Saint-Michel in France to Monte Sant’Angelo on Gargano.
After 1379, being abolished as the office of the abbot monk, the Sacra was abandoned for over two centuries. Only in 1836 the project of its restoration was launched.
Today the territory of the complex comprises the ruins of an ancient church (called the Sepulchre of the Monks, since it was thought to be a cemetery chapel, the remains of the monastery constructions, guest houses created for pilgrims, the Great Staircase of the Dead (called so for several skeletons of the monks displayed in the past on the rocky walls) and the library. There are also Ruins of the New Monastery dating back to the 12-14th centuries, with the so-called Tower of the Beautiful Alda.
The 17th century legend is associated with the Tower of the Beautiful Adda. It narrates about a peasant girl Adda, who came one day to the Sacra to pray against the evils of war. She was ambushed by the enemy soldiers and, unable to escape from the high tower, she threw herself into the ravine below, praying for help of St Michael and the Virgin Mary. Miraculously she was saved and landed at the very bottom unhurt. She returned home and told about the miracle, but the villagers didn’t believe her. So Adda, seized by vanity, offered to repeat her jump to prove her ability. Unfortunately, that time she jumped and met the horrible death in the rovine.
St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery Kiev, Ukraine
Image: copyright Memory of Stones - Historia Vivens
The history of the Monastery goes back to 1108, when the sanctuary was founded to honour the victory of the Rus armies over the enemy tribes and St Michael as the patron of the warriors and of the Kyiv city. Being the first church in Kyiv with the golden domes, it was called “Golden-Domed”, and served as the burial place for several generations of the Kievan Rus princes. Hosting the relics of St Barbara, the Monastery was famous pilgrimage site for many centuries.
Due to the numerous invasions and wars the monastery was damaged, reconstructed and completed several times in its history. In the 19th century it was greatly developed by the monks, and had several hospice buildings for pilgrims, four churches, a treasury, a library and a school of the church chants. By the 1934 the whole complex was demolished by the communist government, and restored partly in the end of the 20th century.