Visit Sacra di San Michele in Piedmont!
The Sacra di San Michele, also known as the Abbey of St Michael, is a splendid building and is the symbol of the Piedmont region. Located at the top of Mount Pirchiriano, it is of splendid beauty and draws attention from afar. Today we are going to visit the magnificent Sacra di San Michele in Turin, in the Piedmont region! Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams !!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”.
Beautiful video of the Sacra di San Michele!
Sacra di San Michele is an abbey located in the Piedmont region, more precisely on top of Mount Pirchiriano. The structure was erected between 983 and 987 AD and its history is fascinating. Imposing, it dominates the top of the hill and offers us an almost poetic vision. The site was abandoned for almost two centuries, but this did not affect its splendor in any way, and today it shines magnificently.
1) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? Portal Carlo Felice
The abbey received the portal as a donation. It is, today, the main access of the church and represents the arms of St Michael, in the inferior part, and the chained devil, being dominated by the Saint with a sword, in the superior part. Gorgeous!
2) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? Statue of St Michael
Of unique beauty, it was sculpted by Paul dë Doss-Moroder, and is impressive at 5.20 meters in height.
3) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? The staircase of the dead
Steep, it is a staircase carved directly into the local rocks, it is right after the entrance to the abbey. Its name is due to the skeletons of the monks preserved there until 1930.
4) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? The Portal of the Zodiac
Made by the hands of Maestro Nicolao, a famous architect-sculptor from Piacenza, it was named after its decorations inspired by the signs of the zodiac and its constellations. A curiosity: it is the oldest Romanesque example that speaks of the Zodiac and constellations. The details impress!
5) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? The Abbey Tower
Approximately 20 meters high, the Abbey Tower is one of the most beautiful places in the monument, and is very famous for the legend of the young Alda. Legend has it that during the Barbarossa invasion, a young girl named Alda was pursued by a group of soldiers and decided that she would die before being captured; in a desperate attempt, she allegedly threw herself from the tower and, as she fell, prayed to Our Lady for protection.
In the fall, Alda felt her body float and, it is said, she was held by two angels, who took her safely to the ground. Impressed, she reported the fact to people, but no one believed that this, in fact, would have happened. Undaunted, she wanted to prove that she was telling the truth and tried to ‘reproduce’ her fall, but this time, no angels, and they say that Alda’s body broke into several pieces, the largest of which was her ear.
6) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? The Old Savoyard Rooms
They are not the original ones, but a reproduction of the old rooms where the Savoyard nobles received their guests and spent their free time. The rooms have reproductions of pieces, furniture and decoration from the 19th century and they are beautiful!
7) What to see at the Sacra di San Michele? The Library
The library there is from 1836 and coincides with the arrival of the Rosminian Fathers to Mount Pirchiriano. The site’s book collection contains more than 10,000 volumes and initially contained only 300; although the library is ‘recent’, the volumes date from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Visit Sacra di San Michele in Piedmont! Map
Opening hours change according to the seasons:
- from November to February, from Monday to Saturday, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm;
- on Sundays and November 1st, December 8th, January 1st and January 6th: from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (from 11:15 am to 1:00 pm entrance only for Holy Mass).
- December 25th, from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm – from 11:15 am to 1:00 pm admission only for Holy Mass.
- From March to October, from Monday to Sunday, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm;
- on Sundays, from 11:15 am to 1:00 pm, admission only for Holy Mass.
- For the days when the Sacra remains closed for visitation, working only for mass! Go to the website to check the schedules!
- It is necessary to buy a ticket and you can buy it online or on site – it costs 8 euros. If you want to buy online, just click here! You can also opt for a guided tour, in which case the ticket will cost 10 euros.
As it is a religious place, avoid short clothes and plunging necklines, as well as bare shoulders. Don’t take big bags and backpacks, which are uncomfortable – especially if you visit during the summer, as the area is very hot! Wear comfortable shoes and, if the floor is wet, be careful where you step: some stretches are very slippery.
A little more about the Sacra di San Michele
The Sacra di San Michele, or, officially, the Abazzia di San Michele della Chiusa, consists of an architectural complex that stands at the entrance to the Susa Valley, in Turin, in the municipalities of Sant’Ambrogio di Torino and Chiusa di San Michele, a just above the town of San Pietro.
The base of the place is impressive: it is 960 meters above sea level and, from there, we can have an incredible view of the Cottian Alps and the Po Valley. In terms of religious architecture, it is, without a doubt, one of the most important buildings in all of Italy and currently belongs to the diocese of Susa.
The place has a lot of history
From the 12th to the 15th century it lived the height of its historical splendor, and was one of the main Italian religious centers; in the 19th century, the congregation of the Rosminian Fathers was established there.
In Roman times, a military garrison was present there, at the outlook of Via Cozia. From that time we can admire a plaque that marks the event and was made in memory of one of the Roman families that lived on the site in the 1st century, the family of Surio Clemente. The Roman castrum was used by the Lombards, of which there are still some traces in the village of Chiusa di San Michele. The cult of Michael was practiced by the Lombards, and was inherited by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, who passed the tradition on to his nephew Frederick II von Hohenstaufen, who in turn incorporated it into his Kingdom.
We must emphasize, however, that the cult of San Michele does not have concrete data on its emergence, much less documentation that proves its birth. What we do know is that many researchers work with the hypothesis that the worship of San Michele already existed in the Susa Valley the 6th century, when there was a small chapel dedicated to the Archangel.
In fact, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, several religious buildings began to be erected throughout Europe, and several of them were (and are) dedicated to the Holy Archangel Michael. The construction date of this complex was determined between 983 and 987, and some scholars say that it may have been built between 999 and 1002. The most reliable sources existing today speak of the time of Saint John Vincent, Archbishop of Ravenna, who retired for a hermit’s life in this region and, therefore, between the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century the abbey would have appeared. There is a legend that says that the former archbishop had a vision of Michele and that he ordered him to build a shrine in his honor. Due to lack of documentation, little is known about the beginning of the construction of the monument.
As life is not a bed of roses…
Sacra went through dark moments, caused mainly by politicians. The facts date back to 1362, when Prince Giacomo of Savoy-Achaea, due to his insubordination to the House of Savoy, was totally deprived of his royal privileges, as well as his possessions. His son, Philip II of Savoy-Achaea, with an almost evil thirst for revenge, sacked the village of Sant’Ambrogio di Susa and destroyed the Abbey Palace. As absurd as it may seem, he received the full support of the then abbot, Peter III of Fongeret. In 1381, Amedeo VI of Savoy, also called Green Count, made a desperate decision: he asked Pope Urban VI directly for the authority of the abbot of Sacra to be revoked, and it was from this moment that the complex lost its autonomy and passed to be administered by a commander. As a result, the monastery lost interest in the 15th century and, increasingly, began to be abandoned.
After almost two centuries of abandonment, at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, some restoration interventions began to be developed. The architecture of the place underwent several changes and neo-Romanesque elements were incorporated into the construction; a staircase and flying buttresses on the south side were also included. From that moment, the Sacra became a place of prayer and meditation. The peace there, however, was briefly threatened in May 1944 by German occupiers in World War II.
After the worst, and already reborn, in 1980, the writer Umberto Eco brought Sacra to light again! It was here that he was inspired to set his most famous novel: The Name of the Rose. Another important event that took place here was the visit of Pope John Paul II on July 14th, 1991.
In 2016, a new project of restoration and expansion of the entire Sacra was announced, aimed at improving the place to receive tourist. On the night of January 24th, 2018, the Abbey was taken by a fire, which devastated part of the roof of the monastery that, they say, with the grace of San Michele, was redone and today shines splendorly.
How to get to Sacra di San Michele?
1) How to get to Sacra di San Michele? BY CAR
Take the A32 Torino-Bardonecchia highway towards Frejus. Take the exit for Avigliana Centro. Follow signs for Giaveno – Sacra di San Michele and take the tunnel. When exiting the tunnel, at the roundabout, take the first exit and head towards Laghi di Avigliana – Giaveno. At the third roundabout, take the second exit towards Giaveno and follow signs for Sacra di San Michele. Parking is at Piazzale Croce Nera (1.50 EUR/hour), from there, on foot, you can reach Sacra in 15 minutes on foot.
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2) How to get to Sacra di San Michele? BY TRAIN
Take the train that connects Torino-Susa or Torino-Bardonecchia with Avigliana station. From Avigliana train station, it is possible to take a taxi, but it is worth remembering that, from April 1st to October 31st, on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, it is possible to use the transfer service. You can also take the bus (Line 253 Avigliana FS – Sacra di San Michele) which costs 2.20 euros, takes half an hour to reach the monument and departs from Piazzetta De André at the following times: 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 02:00 pm, 04:00 pm and 06:00 pm. Get off, of course, at the last stop.
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Visit Sacra di San Michele in Piedmont! One of the most beautiful places in Italy is, without a doubt, the Sacra di San Michele. With all its simplicity, but at the same time with all its elegance, charm and history, it is truly a must-see for anyone visiting Turin.
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