Cripta Basiliana di San Michele

Useful Information

Location: Ceglie Messapica, 2 km southest on the SP26.
(40.6226666, 17.5329833)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave. SubterraneaCave Church SubterraneaSt. Michael Caves
Light: bring torch
Dimension: T=20 °C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: not accessible, steep irregular staircase
Address: Grotta e cripta rupestre di San Michele, 72013 Ceglie Messapica BR, Tel: +39-0
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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2009 property sold to an English couple.


The Cripta Basiliana di San Michele is a cave church dedicated to the archangel San Michele (Saint Michael). It is located at the SP26, 2 km southeast of the city center of Ceglie Messapica. The cave is a single huge chamber with a collapse to one side and a staircase leading down the slope of the collapse debris. The whole chamber is very well decorated with speleothems. It is 50 m long, 25 m wide and has a height of 15 m.

The staircase ends at a bare wall with a stone altar and frescoes at the cave wall showing Christo Pantocratore, San Michele Arcangelo, and Madonna Orante. Actually, the term frescoes is wrong, as there was never fresh plaster. It would be better to call the pictures wall paintings. The last picture is considered the oldest picture of the Madonna found in Salento and is from the 8th century.

The cave church uses only one half of the cave. A staircase leads to the right where half of the cave is almost untouched. The floor is covered by a layer of bat guano, which is probably a reason why it was not used for the church.

It seems the whole cave with church, together with the surrounding ground has been sold to a British couple. The Comune di Ceglie Messapica had a veto right, but they refused to buy first. So actually, we do not know if this church is still accessible.