With its apparitions and shrines, Saint Michael the Archangel still fascinates us today: in this article, we discover the mystery of the Sacred Line of Saint Michael the Archangel.
History of Saint Michael the Archangel
Devotion to Saint Michael the Archangel has centuries of history. In particular, the holy Archangel – of whom we have already spoken in other articles – is remembered to be the warrior of God, defeating sin and wielding the sword of divine justice. Often it is represented with a sword or a spear in hand, intent on destroying the dragon, a symbol of the Devil. Together with the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael, he is remembered on 29 September.
Saint Michael the Archangel: apparitions on the Gargano
Saint Michael is known for his appearances on the Gargano, which we have mentioned in an article on our blog. After the apparitions and the stories linked to them, popular faith in his intercession grew in the places where he manifested himself and not only. In particular, in Italy, the sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo was built, in Apulia, in correspondence with the cave in which the Archangel showed himself.
The Feast of St Michael the Archangel
In Monte Sant’Angelo, the feast of the patron Saint Michael on 29 September is full of events. In particular, the procession of the Holy Sword of St. Michael is a suggestive and exciting event, the only day of the year on which the saint’s sword leaves the Basilica. In the days before the actual feast, instead, the historical procession of the apparitions of St. Michael the Archangel unfolds: young people stage the apparitions of St. Michael.
The Sacred Line of Saint Michael: seven shrines united by a line
Not everyone knows that between Europe and the Middle East, there are seven shrines dedicated to the holy Archangel Michael. Each of these shrines is linked to devotion to St. Michael. They often arise in significant places or, as for that of Monte Sant’Angelo in Puglia, where the saint manifested himself with apparitions and miracles. But the most mysterious and incredible thing is that these seven shrines are located on a dead straight line that connects them with precision: the Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel.
The Monastery of Skelling
The Skelling Monastery, on the island called Skelling Michael, is a unique place of its kind. Skelling Michael Island, also known as Skelling Rock or Great Skelling, is a very interesting natural formation, originating millions of years ago, which has retained a characteristic rugged and wild appearance. The date of the foundation of the monastery has not been identified with certainty, however, it was likely built before the 8th century. Today you can admire the ruins and the extraordinary organisation of the spaces, adapted to the surrounding environment. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
St. Michael’s Mount Abbey
St. Michael’s Mount is an island in Cornwall. Here it is said that the Archangel Michael appeared in the fifth century and for this reason, the Benedictines founded an abbey in his honour. Legends also tell of several apparitions of Saint Michael to sailors and fishermen, guided to safe harbours by the saint or warned of some danger at sea. The island is tidal: when the tide is low, you can reach it on foot walking on dry soil; when the tide rises, the island is surrounded and can only be reached by boat. Today only the church and the refectory remain of the abbey: during the sixteenth century, it was replaced by a fortress that can be admired even today.
The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel
It is interesting the similarity between St. Michael’s Mount and Mont Saint-Michel, in Normandy (France). This is also a tidal island and houses the third sanctuary on the Sacred Line: the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. According to legend, in 709 the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and asked that a church be built on the rock in his honour. The bishop, reluctantly, began to build in another place, more hospitable, but St. Michael convinced him by burning his skull with a finger. In the cathedral of Avranches, the washed skull of the bishop is preserved. The abbey went through numerous vicissitudes and became an important pilgrimage destination.
The Sacred of Saint Michael the Archangel
The Sacred of Saint Michael is located in Piedmont, not far from Turin. Here there was a military garrison in Roman times; in the 6th century the cult of St. Michael spread and a small church was probably built. The actual architectural complex is dated to the end of the 10th century. Again, history is guided by an apparition of the Archangel, this time to the Archbishop of Ravenna John Vincent. The saint asked for the same thing: that a sanctuary dedicated to him be erected in that place. It is said that the angels themselves consecrated the chapel: the citizens saw it, one night, surrounded by a mysterious fire.
The Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo in Monte Sant’Angelo
The Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel in Monte Sant’Angelo, Apulia, we have already talked about in this article and others. The development of devotion to St. Michael and the first sanctuary is dated to the end of the 5th century. Many interventions and intercessions of St. Michael are linked to this sanctuary: the saint intervened both to defend the population at war against the invaders and to ward off the plague when it afflicted the areas of southern Italy. Numerous popes, sovereigns, nobles and saints – including Saint Francis of Assisi, John XXIII and John Paul II – visited the shrine as pilgrims.
The Monastery of St. Michael Archangel of Panormitis
The sixth place on the Sacred Line is the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Michael Archangel of Panormitis, on the Greek island of Simi, in the Dodecanese archipelagos. There was once a temple dedicated to the god Apollo. The monastery does not have a certain date of construction but it is likely to date back to the 5th century. The church of San Michael houses many icons including an icon of the Archangel Michael two metres high and covered with silver leaves. Legend has it that the icon miraculously appeared in that place and, once removed, was found again in its place.
The Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel
The place that closes the Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel is the Carmelite monastery of Stella Maris, located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. This place has been a place of Christian worship since time immemorial: Mount Carmel is considered the place where the prophet Elijah lived and challenged the prophets of Baal. Although the monastery today is of Marian dedication, the first foundation, dating back to the Byzantine era, was dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel.
The Cave of Saint Michael the Archangel
All the places we have talked about are wonders both from the point of view of religious and artistic and naturalistic significance. The cave of San Michele, on which stands the sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo was recognised in 2014 by the National Geographic Society as one of the most beautiful sacred caves in the world. The cave played a central role in the apparitions of the Archangel and today houses the statue of the saint.