Some say that the pope required that the monastery should be built half way between Mont Saint Michel in France and Santuario di Monte San Michele, in Monte Sant‘Angelo (Puglie, south of Italy). A chronicle written in the second half of the 11th, says that Saint Michael has chosen these three places as his kingdom on earth.
Even if Hugues de Paillers-Montboissier‘s story is very likely to be a legend, but Skellig Michael, in south western Ireland, Mont Saint Michel in Normandie (France), Sacra di San Michele in Piémont (Italy) and Santuario di Monte San Michele on Mount Gargan in Puglie (Italy) are almost on a straight line and almost equidistant !
The three latter are undoubtedly linked as for centuries, pilgrims used to go from Mont Saint Michel to the Gargano, passing in Piedmont, at Sacra di San Michele.
I have also a page on Skellig Michael and on Mont Saint Michel (under construction).
Writer Umberto Eco who was born in Piedmont and knew well Sacra di San Michele. When he wrote The Name of the Rose, he had the site of Sacra di San Michele in mind as a frame for the adventures he presents.
The three photos show the valley towards the east
The first photo shows Avigliana and the autostrada from Susa to Turin.
The second and the third photo show the landscape further east. Because of air pollution, Turin cannot be seen but should be on the grayish horizon!
The tall structure in the middle of the photo is the tower of the beautiful Alda. The legend says that when she was to be raped by villains, she jumped in the valley and was found safe. The legend says that later, she jumped again, but this time for money and killed herself.
The terrace overlooks the ruins of the old monastery that was built between the 12th and the 14th . This is also where was the old Ligures fortress and the Roman fortress.. It has a great view over the valley
The third photo shows the elevator for disabled that is almost hidden behind a pillar.
As the visit is single way, the way down for visitors is goes in the beginning through a narrow and steep staircase at another corner of the terrace. However, it should be outlined that an elevator has been recently installed for disabled. It is available on demand and after agreement.
The church has a smaller entrance (way out for the visitors) that leads to a terrace that overhangs the valley. In a corner, after a few stairs, a small portal is named “monks portal”. This door leads to the monastery part, where lived the monks. It is divided in two parts by a pilaster. On each side, a trifoliate arch.
In a small sober chapel with a trifoliate vault lays the recumbent figure of Adate Giugliemo. I have been unable to find who was Adate Giugliemo and as it was the end of the visit, our guide had left us to collect another group.
The church is not very large but remember that it stands on top of a peak and that most of it is held by a single pillar! However, it is impressive with its three naves? The Romanesque style is cleverly mixed with the Gothic stile. The lowest arches, between the central nave and the side naves are Romanesque. The vault of the main nave is Gothic.
A Roman stele has been incorporated into the wall, left to the entrance. Amazingly, it has been fixed leaning as can be seen on the first photo. On the blank space that was at its bottom, now on the right, a Christian scene has been carved, standing
On the second photo, I have made a close up on the Roman stele and I have turn it in its original way ! This stele dedicated the place to an Alpine god. May be this is why it was set leaning and not standing!
The third photo shows better the small Christian carving with a lamb, a hen, a shepherd, a cross and a worshiper.
The face of a monk with a cowl stands above the entrance, on the side. There used to be on the other side the head of a novice with short hair but in circumstances that I have not fully understood, it had been removed (stolen ?).
The small columns, on each side of the entrance have been added in the 19th . They have been recovered from another entrance. The columns further from the entrance (first photo) are topped by trifoiled arches. Each capital is carved with different kind of leaves. The columns closer to the portal (second photo) are carved with flowers and grapes.
The portal was built in the 12th in grayish bluish stone and is closed by a wooden door that was added in 1826 (first photo)
The second photo is a close up on the top box. It shows a snake with a devil’s face, chained to a sword.
The third photo shows the lower box with a coat of arm (of the bishop ?)
The photo shows the platform in front of the entrance with the group listening to the guide. At this pint, he had a lot to tell. Fortunately, the weather, though cool (it was November 1st) was sunny. On the right, the stairs that we had just climbed. On the left (not seen), the entrance into the church.
From Zodiac door (outside the photo, on the right), you turn right and find another flight of stairs that climb under the counterforts of the church. The counterforts were built in the 19th. Contrary to the Deads’ staircase, this flight of stairs is in the open. It leads to a small platform with on the right the entrance into the church.
The first photo shows (right) a fishtailed Triton with an abundant hair symbolizes water. On the left, a Griffon holds its tail between its legs.
The second photo shows on the right two eagles that symbolize the sky (or the heaven). On the left two women milk snakes, which can be a symbol of luxury.
The third photo is an enlargement of the previous. The snakes should be named amphisbene as they are two headed: one head bit a two of the women while the other milk her. The symbolism is then that they connect the cosmic energy with the telluric energy .and master completely all the energies.