EREMO DI SAN MICHELE ARCANGELORedentore, 04023 Formia LT, Italia
The hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo is a small church located on the slopes of Mount Altino, which belongs to the chain of the Aurunci mountains, at 1220 m a.s.l. in the territory of Maranola (fraction of Formia).
Set in the rock, it is located along the path that leads from Sella Sola to the top of the Redentore, on an overhanging ridge.
The rock sanctuary, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, dates back to 830, in fact it is mentioned in the Codex diplomaticus cajetanus. However, the stone facade, which closes a natural cavity, was rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style at the end of the nineteenth century, in 1893, when Archbishop Francesco Niola climbed Mount Altino on a pastoral visit. He indicated the interior of the cave as the ideal location for the new construction, in order to avoid the damage reported by the previous church, caused by run-off water, falling rocks and portions of ice.
The new project was drafted by the engineer Silvio Forte coming from Trivio. The rock was squared to form the church place and there was a space of twelve metres long, ten metres wide and seven metres high. On the back wall, opposite to the entrance wall, a niche also dug into the rock, houses S. Michele’s statue.
The façade, facing west and with two protruding volumes on the sides, in the center has an archiacute entrance door, next to the inscription ‘Angelorum Principi’, dated 830, the year of the foundation of the “olf cenobium”, and dated 5th August 1895, the day of the inauguration of the new shrine. These dates are also reported on a tombstone placed inside the church.
Both the rose window and the other openings of the façade were closed by polychrome windows, which had been lost.
With the construction of the new sanctuary, a new access road was also opened, from where the new route was created, while the old one of
St. Michele, much harder, was abandoned.
The area is very rich in spring waters, which flow almost everywhere from the rocky vault. The internal walls of the church itself acts as a source and the very cold water is collected in some tanks in the wall. Outside there is a smaller one before the sanctuary and another larger one at the bottom, used by livestock.
The position of the chapel created inside a cave right on the slopes of the mountain is linked to an ancient folk tale, according to which it was the statue of the Saint itself that indicated the place where it wanted to be venerated. Originally placed in a cave along the coast of Gianola (area of Formia), it seems that the statue, offended by the rude language of the sailors of the time, had moved to Mount SaintAngelo, in Spigno Saturnia. Even from the new position, at 1252 mts above the sea level, on a rocky wall facing the sea, it could see the sailors, so they decided to move to Monte Altino, in a cavity in the rock facing west.
The inhabitants of Spigno tried several times to bring it back to their territory, but unexpectedly the statue returned to its current location, in the territory of Maranola. The small chapel was then built in honour of St. Michael the Archangel.
The path reaching the hermitage does not present any particular difficulties, it is indeed suitable for families, for its easy good conditions. 7.3 km long, the journey takes an hour and 30 minutes, while it is not recommended in midsummer due to the total exposure to the sun.
Wikipedia – Ente Regionale Parco dei Monti Aurunci,Guida ai sentieri nel parco dei Monti Aurunci.Edizione 2008