Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano

Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo

Useful Information

Location: Via Reale Basilica, 127, 71037 Monte Sant'Angelo FG.
From Autostrada Adriatica A14, exit San Severo, follow SS272 eastwards for 53 km to Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano.
From Autostrada Adriatica A14, exit Foggia follow SS89 38 km to Madonna delle Grazie, SS89 Garganica 4.5 km to Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano.
(41.707819, 15.954678)
Open: Basilika and Cave Church: APR to JUN Mon-Sat 7-12:30, 14:30-19, Sun, Hol 7-13, 14:30-20.
JUL to SEP Mon-Sat 7:30-20, Sun, Hol 7-20.
OCT Mon-Sat 7-12:30, 14:30-19, Sun, Hol 7-13, 14:30-20.
NOV to MAR Mon-Sat 7-12:30, 14:30-18, Sun, Hol 7-13, 14:30-19.
Crypts: Winter daily 9-12:15, 15-16:30.
Summer daily 9-12:15, 15-19.
Devotional Museum: Winter daily 9-12:15, 15-16:30.
Summer daily 9-12:15, 15-19.
Shops: Winter daily 9-12:30, 14:30-17.
Summer daily 9-12:30, 14:30-19:30.
During masses access is restricted.
Fee: free, donations welcome.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church SubterraneaSt. Michael Caves
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Santuario S. Michele Arcangelo, Padri Micheliti, 71037 Monte S.Angelo (FG), Tel: +39-0884-561150, Fax: +39-0884-568126. E-mail: contact
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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490 first apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.
08-MAY-492 second apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.
493 third apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.
22-SEP-1656 fourth apparition of Archangel Saint Michael.
~1000 Monte Sant'Angelo founded.
1216 visited by St. Francis of Assisi.
1274-1282 octagonal campanile built above the church by Charles I of Anjou.
1395 entrance hall built.
1949-1960 Longobard caves discovered during excavations by Monsignore Nicola Quitadamo.
1989 Devotional Museum opened to the public.
24-MAY-1987 visited by Pope Johannes Paul II.


The main cave church.
The main cave church, Monte Sant´Angelo sul Gargano, Puglia, Italy. Public Domain.
Cappella Penitenziale (Penitential Chapel), the original cliff face with hermits' caves.

Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano is the name of a village, located at the southern coast of the Gargano peninsula, built on top of a mountain ridge which runs east to west. To the south there is a beautiful view to the sea 400 m below, to the north is a steep cliff going down to a pleasant valley with some agriculture, and the National Park Foresta Umbra on the other side, a remains of the natural forests of Italy with typical mediterranean vegetation.

This pleasant spot was never a good place to settle, because of the steep cliffs all around, but it was used by sheperds to graze their sheep or goats or cows. Natural caves in the northern cliff face were used as shelter for the animals. The biggest of the caves was used as a shelter by the herders.

According to legend the first appearance happened with a stray bull. The animal used to graze alone and avoid the other animals, and as it did not return to the barn one evening, the owner and his servants were looking for it. After some search they found it on top of the mountain, in front of a cave. At this time the owner was already so angry about the bull, he took his bow and shot at it with an arrow. But a strong and sudden wind turned the arrow around, and it hit the archer instead. He went to the bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and told him the whole story. The bishop ordered three days of prayer and fasting, and at the end Archangel Michael appeared and spoke: "You have done well to ask God what was hidden to men. Make it clear that everything happens for my will as I am the Archangel Michael. The cave is sacred to me and I decided to protect this place and its inhabitants. What will be asked for in prayer will be answered here. Go to the mountain and dedicate the cave to Christian worship." But the mountain was almost inaccessible and known as a place of pagan worship, so the bishop hesitated to obey the words of the Archangel.

The second appearance is traditionally dated to the year 492, but historically the battle between the Byzantines and the Lombards happened from 662 to 663. During this war the Greek attacked the shrine on the Gargano, which was defended by Grimoaldo I, Duke of Benevento. In the night before the battle, the Archangel Michael appeared again to the bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and told him that his prayers would be answered. He was told to start the battle at the fourth hour of the day. When the Lombards did so, the battle was accompanied by earthquakes, lightning, and thunderbolts, and ended with the success of Grimoaldo. This day, the 08-MAY, became the feast day called the Apparition of St. Michael.

In the year after the victory, bishop Maiorano decided to obey the archangel and consecrate a church inside the cave. The night before, he had the third appearance of the archangel who said: "I have built the church [the cave] and I have consecrated it, this is not your task. But the people may come and frequent the place which is under my protection." And so bishop Lorenzo Maiorano and seven other bishops of Apulia walked to the shrine. Once inside the cave they found a crude altar covered by a crimson mantle and surmounted by a cross. In front of the altar was a footprint on the floor which was though to be from Archangel Michael. As a result of this day this cave is a church, which is not consecrated by human hands. It is called Celeste Basilica (heavenly basilica).

The fourth appearance happened in 1656, when Italy was hit by the plague. Archbishop Alfonso Puccinelli went to the cave to pray and fast. At the dawn of 22-SEP-1656 he felt an earthquake and then St. Michael appeared to him. He ordered him to bless the stones of his cave carving on them the sign of the cross and the letters MA (Michael). Anyone who with such a stone would be saved from the plague. The city was liberated from the plague and everyone who had such a stone survived too.

Today there is a sanctuary built on top of the cave, it is entered from the streets of the village on the top of the hill. There is an entrance building with two pointed arches, and an octagonal belfry. Inside the entrance a staircase called scala angioina starts, it was named so as it was built during the Angevin period in the 13th century. The staicase leads down 89 steps to the Porta del Toro (Door of the Bull) on level of the cave. It was named after a large fresco above the door, depicting the episode of the bull's first appearance. An atrium leads to the Romanesque entrance of the basilika with its bronze doors from 1076. The basilika is a normal church, built right in front of the cave and used for services. The cave is located at the far end of the basilika. It contains the altar of St Michael and is used as a church until today. The statue of the archangel, made of pure white marble, was sculpted by Andrea Contucci, better known as "Sansovino", in 1507. Quite interesting is the pozzetto behind the altar, a bowl in which dripping water from the ceiling is collected, which is obviously sewage water from the city above. Or completely holy and clarified by the archangel himself, depending on what you believe in.

The Crypts are located below the basilika and actually there are two of them. The oldest inscriptions are from the 7th and 8th century, so they were built during the Langobard period. The first room is 45 m long, the second 20 m. The crypts were long forgotten, abandoned in the 13th century, and were rediscovered in the years 1949-1960 during excavations promoted by the Archdeacon of the Chapter, Nicola Quitadamo. The space is today used as a museum, the Iapideo Museum, and contains the two sarcophaguses, which were discovered here. The other exhibits are sculpted rocks from various periods, which wre collected here. There are numerous statues from the abandoned churches St. Peter and St. Mary of Pulsano, and slabs of terra-cotta for tomb coverings.

At the foot of the scala angioina there is a second building on the other side, which contains a part of the original cliff face. It is full of artificial caves which were dug into the soft rock. They are interpreted as cells of hermits. The room is equipped as a chapel and called the Cappella Penitenziale (Penitential Chapel). Unlike the basilika and cave this place is often devoid of visitors and a place of silence. The room was accessible before, but was transformed into a chapel in 2000.

And at last there is the Museo Devozionale (Devotional Museum) which was created in 1989 and collects the gifts offered to the Sanctuary by famous and unknown pilgrims. This includes liturgical vestments, chalices, crosses, silver lamps, censers, little boats, candelabra, and even reliquaries. A highlight is the collection of coins and medals, among them there are some Greek coins from the Bronze Age. The most ancient icon of St. Michael venerated in the Sanctuary has a central place. The Byzantine Icon is dated to the Longobard period (8th-9th century). They were collected during the last 200 years.

This place is actually a catholic church, and as such it is open daily and for free to all visitors. However, appropriate manners and clothing is expected, so bring decent shirts and shoes if you want to enter. And respect the beliefs of the other visitors even if you are not Christian. One of the results of this is, that photography is forbidden in the cave church, which is obviously a good thing, because it would disturb the praying faithful. On the other hand it is the reason why there are only two pictures of pretty poor quality, which were made without permission. On one side there is only very dim light, and you have to take the picture without flash and always fearing that one of the monks (the site is managed by the St. Michael Brotherhood) will expel you for it. The result is blurred. At least Archangel Michael did nothing to stop me, which I interpret as a good sign.