06.12.2017

Along the Saint Michael Alignment

Seven shrines, five nations and a series of unforgettable views: crossing Europe along the Saint Michael Alignment, sacred to Christians and full of discoveries for travelers

  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment
  • Along the Saint Michael Alignment

Have you ever heard of ley lines? According to some, these alleged "alignments" between geographic points corresponding to places or monuments would be characterized by special energies, either magical or spiritual.
 
Among them is the so-called St. Michael Alignment which, esotericisms apart, is a perfect excuse to visit some truly magnificent places, following this ideal line across Europe from Ireland to Israel whose path touches seven splendid shrines, some of them very well known and accessible, and others so secluded and impervious that they offer an authentic chance for adventure.
 
What they all share is the strong spiritual vibe, and of course the cult of St. Michael, the Archangel believed by Jewish to be the defender of the people of Israel and by Christians to be the opponent of the devil, the one whose mighty sword blow - symbolized precisely by the ley line – killed Satan.
 
Here are the seven steps of what might prove to be an exciting tour and, for the most part, one far from the great tourist flows.
 
Skellig Michael, Ireland
17 kilometers from the coast of Kerry, in south-western Ireland, is a pyramid-shaped rocky islet on top of which sits the most impervious place in Ireland: a monastery dating back to 588 (and designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996) founded by a group of monks devoted to Saint Michael. In addition to being definitely inaccessible, this fascinating sacred place is duly protected by the Irish government: only 10 boats have permission to sail to the tiny island from the Kerry coast, with a maximum of 12 people aboard and only once a day. Yet this did not prevent it from becoming the set for a bunch of scenes from the movie The Force Awakens, a.k.a. the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga.
 
St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
Also on an island, this time in front of Marazion, Cornwall, in the south west of England, the local version of the well-known French monastery of Mont Saint-Michel was built on the site where the Archangel supposedly appeared in 495 by a group of Benedictine monks coming from Mont Saint-Michel. Since the abbey was later replaced by a fortress, the church and the refectory are all that remain of it. Just like Mont Saint-Michel, the tidal island can be reached by ferry or by walking along the causeway that appears at low tide.
 
Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy
The most celebrated and visited among the sanctuaries of the Line is undoubtedly the Benedictine abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, on the coast of Normandy, perched on a tiny tidal island. The Mont was connected to the mainland thanks to the construction of a roadway back in 1879, but lately the build-up of silt around the old dam was slowly destroying its insular nature, so the roadway was recently replaced by a new bridge. A Unesco World Heritage site since 1979, Mont Saint-Michel owes its name to the legendary apparition of the Archangel who, in the year 709, asked Saint Hubert to build a church carved in the rock in his name. Completed by Benedictines monks around 900, the church features a unique and fascinating stratification of different styles. The natural landscape and the Medieval village that surround the Abbey are also quite graceful, albeit very touristy.
 
Sacra di San Michele, Piemonte
The spectacular view of this great religious complex dating back to the year 1000 on Mount Pirchiriano is without a doubt one of the most impressive postcards from the beautiful Val di Susa. Dominated by the ancient Abbey, the sanctuary, which has always been a popular destination among pilgrims and worshippers, can be reached by foot from the village of Chiusa di San Michele or from Sant'Ambrogio, yet the best way to enjoy its mysterious beauty is from one of the surrounding peaks, where you’ll be able to admire it from a distance, wrapped in the clouds like a timeless vision – and such a unique one that it inspired Umberto Eco’s his most famous novel, The Name of the Rose.
 
Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, Apulia
A thousand kilometers further south along the Italian peninsula, in Monte Sant'Angelo, is yet another very important stop along the Saint Michael Alignment, a sanctuary whose construction, dating back to around the year 490, is due to the first appearance of the Archangel to the eyes of Saint Laurence Maiorano. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2011), the sanctuary consists of two levels: the upper one with the beautiful Romanesque basilica and the bell tower erected by Carlo D'Angiò as a thanksgiving to the Saint for the successful conquest of southern Italy, and the lower (and oldest) one, with the cave and the crypts.
 
Saint Michael’s Monastery, Symi, Greece
On the small island of Symi, north of Rhodes in the Greek Dodecanese, is the next sanctuary dedicated to St. Michael on the Line. It is a Venetian style Orthodox monastery erected around the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century, whose greatest pride is a huge icon of the Saint, highly revered by the Greeks, about three meters high. Needless to say, the opportunity is also perfect for enjoying the many beautiful beaches of the island, all within easy reach since Symi has an area of merely 58 square kilometers.
 
Stella Maris Monastery, Israel
The last stop of this tour suspended between faith, culture and natural beauty is located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Upper Galilee. Despite not being technically a sanctuary dedicated to St. Michael, this is a highly significant spiritual place, deemed sacred ever since the time of ancient Egypt, dear to the Jews, quoted in the Bible and a popular hermitage destination. The birthplace of the Carmelite Order in the XII century, the original monastery was destroyed by the Turks in the 18th century and later rebuilt. The actual building dates back to 1828 and the interiors are decorated with modern paintings dedicated to the Order's history.
 

Author : The Slowear Journal

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Europe  | Italy  | UK  | Scotland  | Greece  | Symi  | Israel  | Saint Michael  | archangel  | sanctuary  | religion  | travels  |

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