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The Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel

The grotto of Monte Gargano

Loo Burnett

The grotto of Monte Gargano

Loo Burnett - published on 05/13/23

It's a pilgrimage route that has intrigued religious people and historians for 15 centuries.

The Christian world was built on pilgrimage routes. Just as the Gospels were to be brought and preached to the four corners of the earth (see Mark 16:15), the faithful also left their homes to encounter the sacred.

Spiritual journeys were part of the life of Christians, especially in the Middle Ages, so it was almost like a “seal of faith” to complete one’s life with at least one pilgrimage to the holy places. The Holy Land, Rome, Santiago de Compostela, and The Sacred Line of St. Michael — as the enigmatic path of the Archangel is known — were among the most popular itineraries for travelers seeking contemplative destinations.

The Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel

The Sacred Line of St. Michael the Archangel is a pilgrimage route that has intrigued religious people and historians for 15 centuries. It’s a straight path that connects seven shrines erected in honor of St. Michael.  From Ireland to Israel, the line connects churches, caves, and shrines that were dedicated to the archangel between the 5th and 12th centuries. These places have certain peculiarities that make us think that this is not a simple coincidence, but that they are placed on this route by Divine Providence. 

Built on high places, such as mountains or hills; surrounded by water; founded on or carved out of solid rock … These are some of their characteristics that remind us of elements mentioned in the Holy Scriptures: the holy mountain, water as the source of life, and the rock that is the cornerstone. Moreover, there’s a legend that narrates the mysterious line as a sword strike by St. Michael in his spiritual battle. It’s said that when he threw down Lucifer and a third of the angels, this path was marked in our temporal world.

The reason why these shrines are arranged along this enigmatic path, then, would be that St, Michael continues guarding the churches of God!

According to angelologist Fr. Marcello Stanzione, the mystical line that connects the seven shrines of St. Michael is very precisely aligned with the sunset on the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. We can see meaning in this fact: the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and the shortest night, due to the angle of the earth with respect to the sun. It can be seen as a symbol of how St. Michael manifests the power of God, whom we describe as Light, and casts out darkness.

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The Sacred Line that connects 7 shrines of St. Michael

The 7 shrines

Each of the seven shrines dedicated to the Archangel Michael arose after the angel manifested his desire for the consecration or construction of places for the spread of Christian worship. They are:

1. Skellig Michael: an island in Ireland. The monastic dwellings on it date back to the 6th century. Tradition has it that the archangel appeared to St. Patrick and encouraged him to spread devotion to St. Michael to free Ireland from the bonds of the devil.

2. St. Michael’s Mount: a rocky island near Cornwall, England. Legend has it that in the 5th century St. Michael saved a group of fishermen from shipwreck, leading them to a safe harbor. The island later became a place of angelic devotion, due to important graces and favors from the heavenly being. 

3. Mont Saint-Michel: one of the main shrines to honor the archangel, located in Normandy, France. The angel is said to have appeared to Bishop Aubert in the 8th century and requested that a chapel be built on top of the rocky island for Christian worship. 

4. Sacra di San Michele or San Michele della Chiusa: a colossal building overlooking the Swiss Alps in a town near Turin in northern Italy. It’s said that in the 10th century the Archangel Michael manifested himself to the hermit Giovanni Vincenzo, asking for a church to be built in his honor on the summit of Mount Pirchiriano.

5. Grotto of St. Michael the Archangel on Gargano: the oldest of the seven shrines, and the first place to receive an apparition of St. Michael in the West. It took place in the 5th century, with an incident involving a shepherd who found the cave pursuing a calf that had gotten into a cave atop Mount Sant’Angelo. Days after the episode, the archangel is said to have appeared in a dream to Bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and requested the consecration of the cave for Christian worship. The cave is located on the Gargano promontory in southern Italy.

6. Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis in Greece: St. Michael is said to have demanded that a hermit named Luke build a church in his honor. Where the Archangel appeared, a sacred spring of water emerged from the earth. This event occurred around the 12th century.

7. Stella Maris Monastery. In Haifa, Israel, is the last shrine of the Sacred Line, known as Stella Maris monastery of Mount Carmel. Tradition has it that the hermits who founded the Carmelite order settled on Mount Carmel in the 12th century. They built their first church there in the early 13th century. It is said that they were fervent devotees of St. Michael and promoters of devotion to him. Although the Carmelites were forced to abandon the Holy Land due to Muslim domination in 1291, they returned centuries later. The current convent and church date from the 19th century. 

The mystery of the Sacred Line does not end there. In researching these seven sanctuaries in depth, we discovered that three of these constructions are exactly one thousand kilometers apart: Mont-Saint-Michel, Sacra di San Michele, and the Grotto of Mount Gargano. These shrines have welcomed kings, emperors, saints, and popes who have made pilgrimages in search of graces or as thanksgiving for favors rendered by the Archangel Michael.

Click below to see photos of these shrines!

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Bibliography:

STANZIONE, Marcello. La Spada di San Michele: la linea sacra che attraversa e difende l’Europa. Pessano and Borgano: Mimepe-Docete, 2020. (Kindle edition);

BURNETT, Loo. São Miguel Arcanjo – um tratado sobre angelologia. São Paulo: Paulus, Publisher, 2021.

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