Friday, October 22, 2010

Saint Michael the Archangel Shrine and Pulsano Abbey

Who would have thought the amazing experiences of this trip would continue? We walked through the picturesque narrow streets of the old town of San Giovanni Rotondo and visited four of the churches including one the locals call the Mother Church, which is the oldest parish church of the city and is dedicated to the Mother of God; the people of the area have a special veneration to the Madonna. The steep streets are paved with white marble and the houses are usually white with an occasional yellow or orange and decorated with an occasional window box or Yucca pot plant.

Door of Catherine of Sienna sculpted  by Nicola our host

Today we went with our host Nicola to Monte San Angelo, to the Saint Michael Shrine on the Gargano. Several years ago when I visited North Sydney near Mary MacKillop Place I stayed at the guest house which is part of the Sisters of Mercy, Monte San Angelo complex. So when I saw there was such a place I was very keen to visit. Nicola and his artist friend took us to the shrine.

The origin of the shine dates back to the end of the 5th century. This is linked to the memory of three apparitions which are related with extraordinary and moving vivacity and testify to the miraculous events which followed. Within a span of fifteen centuries Christians from the whole world have come to the shrine of the Gargano, ‘the house of God, and the gate of heaven’.

We arrived just in time for Mass, and the penitential rite was particularly poignant as it is a place of healing and forgiveness. It was an open cave reminiscent of the cave/stable of Bethlehem. It is said that it was Saint Francis of Assisi’s favorite place to pray and he fasted and prayed there for forty days and forty nights.

We then visited the museum with memorabilia of life of the area, including a tatting roll, ink pot in the child’s desk, a horse collar and plough, axe sharpener and hundreds of other exhibits.

Nicola and Wendy at Monte San Angelo
We then went on to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria di Pulsano. When we arrived we had to open an electronic gate which kept the cattle out, not in!! The landscape is so rocky that the cows roam free to find whatever food they can, they do not produce much milk but what the do is turned into a wonderfully scrumptious cheese.

The Abbey produces beautiful Icons, written by the monks and sisters. They have Iconography schools in summer and accommodation is available. It is built into the rock and faces out across the Port of Manfredonia and the open sea. You can also spot the hermit caves across the ravine. The church is arrayed with a number of beautiful Icons produced by the monks. Wendy and I were able to visit the workshop of the monks to see where they produce such beautiful works. We very extremely fortunate to be given such a privileged tour.

The views were breathtaking.

No comments:

Post a Comment