The Sacra di San Michele is one of the most spectacular religious complexes that you will find anywhere. This has a lot to do with its location in Northern Italy. Saint Michael's Abbey, as it is known in English, sits high atop a mount. Down in the valley below are the Italian Piedmont region villages of Avigliana and Chiusa di San Michele, and the overall scene is one of splendor. A regional law has gone as far as to designate the Sacra de San Michele as Piedmont's main symbolic monument, and it's not hard to understand this once you lay eyes on its immaculate setting. It's a setting that is very much akin to the setting of the famous Mont Saint-Michel monastery in France.
Visitors are welcome at Saint Michael's Abbey every day of the year, and the admission price is more than reasonable. The hours vary according to the time of year, and you'll want to make note of the fact that it closes daily for a few hours in the afternoon.
The construction of Saint Michael's Abbey was no small feat, and it's incredibly amazing to consider that it was all undertaken during the Middle Ages. The earliest account of the edifice comes from a monk who lived on the premises in the eleventh century, and it is believed that the crypt dates back to the late 900s. The crypt's Byzantine tendencies hint at its old age. Some credit angels with having a role in the building of the Sacra di San Michele, partly in an attempt to explain how materials were transported to the mountain top, and a more concrete consensus judges that the abbey's church was constructed in the twelfth century. Either way, Sacra di San Michele history is long, and visitors can get a true sense of its historic nature by touring its fascinating facilities.
Whether you walk up to the Sacra di San Michele from one of the villages below or you drive to the parking lot found near the stairs to the main entrance, a fun and rewarding tour awaits. The huge staircase has rather eerie implications, as dead monks were laid out on it according to past tradition. When you reach the end of this grand staircase, you come face to face with the site's Romanesque church. The door of this church depicts signs of the zodiac, while the church itself features Gothic touches to go with its Romanesque appeal. Among the main highlights of Saint Michael's Abbey are the remnants of frescoes that were painted by Secondo del Bosco inside the church. One of these frescoes attempts to tell the story of the abbey's creation as it relates to angelic intervention. The frescoes alone are worth the trip out from nearby Torino or wherever you might be coming from.
The Sacra di San Michele site is a pleasure to visit for a few different reasons. When you're not checking out the Romanesque and Gothic church, you can take a stairway that leads to three small chapels. These chapels were carved into the rock, and you might be interested to know that housed inside are tombs of early House of Savoy members. The House of Savoy is a key player when it comes to the history of Italy. Founded in modern-day Switzerland in the early eleventh century, this house grew over time and came to rule the Kingdom of Italy, its reign extending from 1861 until the end of World War II.
After Saint Michael's Abbey fell into decline, Pope Gregory XV had it suppressed. This occurred in the year 1622. Subsequent to this, it remained in an abandoned state. After being abandoned for a little more than 200 years, King Charles Albert and the Pope at the time asked an Italian priest and philosopher to renovate and repopulate the abbey. This priest and philosopher's name was Antonio Rosmini, and the abbey remains in the possession of the Rosminians. At least two monks are stationed at the site.