Monte Sant’Angelo, located on the south of Gargano promontory, overlooks on one side the Tavoliere tableland and on the other side the Gulf of Manfredonia.
The Sanctuary of San Michele is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a precious evidence of Lombard art in Italy. A rock-hewn staircase takes down to the Sacra Grotta (Holy Cave), the mystic place where the Archangel made its appearance and an important pilgrims’ destination.
In the neighbourhood Junno, the old part of the town, stroll through the houses built on the ground floor and the alleys, while the bakers cook make the traditional ostie ripiene, sweets filled with almonds and honey. The history still echoes off the walls of the Norman castle, home of Frederik II, the Rotari tomb and the complex of San Francesco, where there is the Museum of Gargano Popular Arts and Traditions.
Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo
The Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 2011, is located in the heart of Monte Sant’Angelo. One of the world’s most celebrated holy places dedicated to the Archangel Michael, it stands on high ground on what was once the Via Sacra Langobardorum. All around lies the Gargano’s typically verdant and inaccessible countryside. The Sanctuary’s white façade welcomes pilgrims with its two large arches, surmounted by a niche with a statue of Saint Michael. From the vestibule, an 86-step staircase leads down to the heart of the sanctuary – the Sacred Cave where Saint Michael appeared. Here, you can read an inscription of the Archangel’s words, which have served to consecrate this mystical place over the centuries: “There where the rock opens wide, the sins of men shall be forgiven.” The baroque altars of the Holy Sacrament and Virgin Mary stand near the magnificent main altar which is dominated by a marble statue of the Prince of the Heavenly Host.
A centuries-old historical tale. The Castle of Monte Sant’Angelo still bears witness to the succession of the many dominations, people and architectual styles. Located in the Gargano National Park, it was originally erected by the Lombards and later on enlarged under Norman rule, with the Giganti and Quadrata tower. Frederick II of Swabia erected, on the other hand, the sala del tesoro (treasury). The present appearance of the castle is mainly due to the influence of the Aragonese, who built the almond-shaped keep and the moat in front of the main gate, in order to make it impregnable to attacks.
The Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano
Built on the ruins of an ancient pagan building, the Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano, not far from Monte Sant’Angelo, is a picturesque stone structure, enclosed by mighty curtain walls, wedged between gray rock cliffs and chasms up to 200m deep. Erected in the Romanesque style in 591 AD, the church was built inside a natural cave, which serves as an apsis featuring a single aisle and a barrel vault, interspersed with large transverse arches. Two sections situated on both sides of the cave accommodate the tomb of Jordan the Abbot, and an altar incorporated in a small brick structure with a pitched roof. Outside the abbey you can see part of a fountain, considered a baptismal font or a small temple, built for the pilgrims to refresh, and numerous hermitages, often accessible only via stairs of ropes. Newly opened to the public after restoration works, the abbey is the natural set stage for the feast of September 8th, when the procession of the faithful departing from Monte Sant’Angelo, arrive at the complex on muleback.
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