The Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel (Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo) is a Roman Catholic shrine on Mount Gargano, part of the commune of Monte Sant'Angelo. It is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael and has been an important site of pilgrimage since the early Middle Ages. The historic site and its environs are protected by the Parco Nazionale del Gargano.
In 2011, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy: Places of Power (568-774 AD).
The underground cave probably became a place of worship in the period when the area was under Greek rule. The sanctuary was founded between the 5th and 6th centuries AD at the behest of the bishop of Siponto, Lorenzo Maiorano, after the archangel Michael had appeared three times. It served as a national memorial chapel under the Lombards and was later attacked by the Saracens, before being restored by the archbishop of Benevento Aione in the 9th century. The Normans and Angevines left signs of their reign over the “Celestial Basilica,” which is today entrusted to the Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel.
The complex of buildings consists of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Tumba, damaged in 1942, and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The baptistery presents a rectangular storey on which rests an octagon supporting an elliptical section and a high drum that supports the cupola. The church erected in the eleventh century by Archbishop Leone stands upon the remains of an ancient necropolis. A few remnants attest to its once-rich fresco decoration.
The Castello was enlarged by the Normans upon an episcopal residence of Orso, Bishop of Benevento, to provide a suitable seat for the Honor Montis Sancti Angeli, further modified by Frederick II. The massive, octagonal campanile was built in the late 13th century by Frederick II as a watchtower. It was turned into a bell tower by Charles I of Anjou.
Behind a forecourt the sanctuary presents a portico of two Gothic arches, the right one of 1395 by the local architect Simone, the left one a reconstruction of 1865. From the portico steps lead down to the low arched nave. The cavern can be accessed from a Romanesque portal, called the Portale del Toro ('Gate of the Bull'): the doors, in bronze, were made in Constantinople in 1076, the donation of an Amalfitan noble. They are divided into 24 panels portraying episodes of angels from the Old and New Testaments.
The archaic cavern opening to the left, with its holy well, is full of votive offerings, especially the 12th century marble bishop's throne supported on crouching lions. Among the ex voto objects is a statue of the Archangel by Andrea Sansovino.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr.