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What is the only church in the world consecrated by an angel?

In the spur of Italy, near the broad expanse of the Adriatic…

…lies the little town of Monte Sant’Angelo, just a 30-minute drive from San Giovanni Rotondo.

In this beautiful, whitewashed town is a shrine located in a small cave.

The cave constitutes the only church in the world not consecrated by human hands.

Why wouldn’t we consecrate this place like every other church?

The reason is that St. Michael did it himself.

The traditions surrounding the founding of this shrine include four apparitions of St. Michael, including the earliest appearance of him in the Western world.

Entrance to the cave (photo: Mboesch/CC BY-SA 4.0)

In the 5th century, he appeared to a local lord from nearby Siponto who had lost a bull in a cave. The man shot an arrow to scare the bull out of the cave, but the arrow came back and struck the lord. St. Michael appeared to the local bishop to request that the cave be consecrated.

The bishop did not obey immediately, perhaps doubting the vision’s veracity.

The second vision of the Archangel occurred when Siponto was threatened by invaders. He saved the town, an event that is commemorated on May 8th (some scholars believe this battle may actually have taken place a couple centuries later, in the 600s).

St. Michael appeared a third time—to the same bishop—to reiterate his request. The bishop at last acquiesced, and was told by St. Michael that the cave didn’t need to be consecrated because the Archangel had already done it himself. Legend says that he even left his footprint in the rock of the cave!

St. Michael made one last appearance in 1656, when he spared the townspeople from a plague that had struck southern Italy. He told the bishop that whoever kept stones from the cave would be protected from the plague.

To this day, pilgrims flock to the town to visit the grotto, which is one of the holiest spots in Christendom—even though it isn’t as well known as other pilgrimage sites. Many popes and saints have visited it, including St. Francis of Assisi, who wouldn’t enter it because he felt unworthy. The stones of the cave—which have been used effectively in exorcisms—are now relics that you can obtain for spiritual and physical protection.

If you ever get the chance to travel to Italy, be sure to put Monte Sant’Angelo on your itinerary. Even if you can’t go there right now, you can still foster devotion to the great Archangel St. Michael with a beautiful statue of the saint. We offer a wide selection at The Catholic Company, including our bestselling 8” bronze-finish statue. Perfect for home or office! Order yours today!

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