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The Monastery of the Alps.

The Monastery of the Alps.

The <font color=red>Monastery</font> of the Alps.

Page Type: Article

Activities: Mountain


Page By: chaberton

Created/Edited: Mar 2, 2013 / Mar 3, 2013

Object ID: 286594

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The Monastery of the Alps "Saint Michael" is the symbol of Piedmont.
is placed on the top of mount Pirchiriano (992 m.), at the mouth of lower Susa Valley.
Given its dominant position, is clearly visible from many miles away.

From the hills above Turin, his unmistakable shape towering bastion is the reference point for panoramic viewer away from the Susa Valley.

This wonderful witness over the centuries, not only is the favorite destination of pilgrims and tourists, but also an unparalleled achievement for bicycle enthusiasts. Both for those

who want to climb the steep paved road that goes from Avigliana to the Monastery and for those who prefer to deal with his Mountain Bike the dirt road from Saint Ambrose of

Turin rises to the Monastery (also known as the Via Crucis or Way of the Franks).

As if all this were not enough, there's also the chance to climb Mount Pirchiriano, taking advantage of the "Via Ferrata", which starts from Saint Ambrose and more than six hundred meters in altitude up to the esplanade of the monastery.

The Monastery of Saint Michael(Piedmont)


The main entrance. On the background the Po Valley


The Ruines of the Monastery and low Susa Valley


The defining characteristic element of Saint Michael is its position on the top of Mount Pirchiriano, a rocky spur belonging to the group of Rocciavré in the Cottian Alps (altitude 962 meters). Pirchiriano is the very ancient name of the mountain; an elegant form of the word "Porcarianus" or "mountain of Pigs", and thematically linked to the
neighbouring peaks "Caprasio", or "mountain of Goats", and "Musinè" or "mountain of Donkeys".

The mountain bears evidence of human settlements since prehistoric times. In later times, it was fortified by the Ligurians and by the Celts under the rule of the two kings Cozio. In 63 A.D., when the Cottian Alps become a Roman Province, the peak's strategic position was exploited by the Romans for military purposes, with the establishment of a "castrum" (garrison).
In 569 A.D. the Longobards invaded and occupied the Cottian Alps. In this period, they built the famous "Locks of the Longobards" in the Susa Valley. They raised walls and towers across the valley when, under the leadership of their king Desiderius and his son Adelchi, they rallied to repel the entry into Italy of Charlemagne, king of the Franks.

The  <b><i>Locks</i></b>  of Saint Michael.
The "Locks" of Saint Michael.

In 773 A.D., the Franks, victors of the "Battle of the Locks", conquered the area and remained there until 888 A.D., when the Saracens invaded the western Alps and ruled for about eighty years.


The Benedictines

Around the end of the tenth century St. John Vincent, a disciple of St. Romuald, began to live the lifeof a hermit here. The choice of the place is certainly conditioned by its impressive setting, by the predisposition to the sacred of Mount Pirchiriano and by the pre-existence of a colony of hermits on Mount Caprasio.
On the threshold of the year one thousand, a man who sought redemption from a questionable past burst into John Vincent's hermitage: he was the Count Hugh (Ugone) of Montboissier, a rich and noble Lord of Auvergne, who had gone to Rome to ask forgiveness from Pope Sylvester II.
The Pope gave him by way of penance a choice between a 7 year exile and the task of building an abbey.

It was in the years 983-87 when the building of the monastery began, five Benedictine monks were assigned to establish the community.
A staging point for high social level pilgrims developed on Pirchiriano, making it an international cultural centre, through the initiative of Hugh of Montboissier and his systematic recruitment of abbots and monks in Auvergne.
Since its foundation, the monastery vigorously sought from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Turin: in particular, in the eleventh century the monks came out clearly in favour of Roman centralist reform, under their most famous abbot Benedict II. This autonomy from temporal and ecclesial authority was quickly attained and the abbey, thanks to its wide and generous hospitality, was able to stimulate exchanges of ideas not only in matters of practical order but also in matters of deep spiritual significance, which helped to create our common heritage of a great religious civilization. It was in this period that the Sacra extended its possessions in Italy and Europe, over which it exerciseed spiritual, administrative, civil and jurisprudential rights.
From the beginning until about the midpoint of the fourteenth century, the monastery enjoyed its most celebrated era under the leadership of Benedictine abbots, after which followed a half century of decline.

Battle for the Monastery
Under Siege

In 1379 the misgovernment of abbot Peter of Fongeret led Count Amadeus VI of Savoy (the Green Count) to ask the Holy See for the abolition of the office of the abbot monk, which was replaced by a commendatory abbot. With the appointment of a commendatory a period of sufering began in the monastery: from 1381 to 1622 the monks were governed by priors, with the commendatory abbots enjoying the revenues, whilst living far from the monastery.
In 1622, one of them, Cardinal Maurice of Savoy, convinced Pope Gregory XV to suppress the monastery, inhabited by then by only three monks.

The legend of the "Angelic Route"

The Way Angelica is a path that many pilgrims followed the Middle Ages. It combines the Basilicas of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, the Sacra of S. Michele in Piedmontand Monte Sant'Angelo in Apulia.

Legend has it that this path was traced by the sword of St. Michael in the struggle against the demon. This created a gap still present but invisible linking the three churches dedicated to St. Michael.

It is said that Saint Michael in Piedmont is exactly in the middle of Angelic Route, 1000 kilometers from Mont Saint Michel and 1000 km from Mount Sant'Angelo in Apulia.

Visualizza Angelic Route in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori

The legend about the origins of the Monastery of Saint Michael.

The "Tower of beautiful Alda" is related to one of the most popular legends on the Sacra di San Michele.
It is said that Alda was a very beautiful girl, pious and devout. While on his way to the shrine to pray, was attacked by soldiers. To escape the violence jumped from a tower of the

Fell on deaf ears, and the end seemed inevitable. But that gesture of purity and sacrifice so much pity angels and the Madonna that saved her, making her come to the valley safely.
Unfortunately, the girl did take pride, telling everyone how he had been saved by angels and how it was "protected" from the sky. No one believed her, and so, for vanity, Alda returned to the tower and jumped into the void.
Given the trivial reason that the girl had thrown this time, there was no divine intervention to save her and the girl sfracellò ground. One way to tell local states that "the ear was found that the biggest part of beautiful Alda."
The  Beautiful Alda  Tower.
The "Beautiful Alda" Tower.

The Monastery today

The sepulcher of the monks
In recent years the Sacra has received special generous attention, and support from public and private institutions. Government agencies have always played their part in the conservation and enhancement of the monument throught conducting specific studies, and above all by scheduling and providing the necessary restoration work via appropriate

State bodies.
The Regional Goverment has been able to take care of the Sacra only recently and is doing so in a decisive and positive way through the provision of grants, especially following regional law no. 64 dated 21/12/1994 that adopted the Sacra di San Michele as the Monumental symbol of Piedmont.
Among the most important actions have been: the complete renovation of the roof of the church and of the old monastery; the restoration of the Portal of the Zodiac, restoration of panels and canvases; the conservation of the Sepulchre of the Monks, the old guest quarters and the flying buttresses.


Getting There

A view from Turin
A view from Turin.
from Turin:
•Highway A32 Turin-Bardonecchia direction Frejus exit for Avigliana East

from France:
•From the Col de Montgenèvre towards Cesana, continue to Oulx where you may choose to take highway A32 (turin-Bardonecchia) to the exit for Avigliana East, or carry on

along the SS24 at Montgenèvre to Avigliana in the direction of the lakes.
•From Frejus tunnel you may choose to take highway A32 (Bardonecchia-Turin) in Bardonecchia to the exit at Avigliana East, or carry on along the SS 24 at Montgenèvre to

Avigliana in the direction of the lakes.

from Avigliana:
•at the roundabout as soon as you exit the highway, follow signs for Giaveno Sacra di San Michele and enter the tunnel. At the tunnel exit, at another roundabout: follow signs for

Lakes of Avigliana and Giaveno and then for the Sacra di San Michele. Park in the Piazzale Croce Nera (approximately 10 minutes from the abbey).

•For buses and vehicles with a width greater than 2 m, one way traffic is obligatory with ascent from Avigliana, and descent to Giaveno.
•For cars, that restriction also applies on Sundays and Public Holidays

Visiting hours

The Curch.
Winter timetable from October 16 to March 15
Opening Hours:
•Weekdays: 9.30-12.30, 14.30-17.00;
•Sundays and public holidays: 9.30-12.00, 14.40-17.00;

Summer timetable from March 16 to October 15
Opening Hours:
•Weekdays: 9.30-12.30, 14.30-18.00;
•Sundays and public olidays: 9.30-12.00, 14.40-18.30;

The last entry is allowed 30 minutes before closing

Closing day:
Monday, except public holidays
(NB During the months of July, August, September
the Sacra remains open also on Monday with opening hours 9.30 - 12.30 and 14.30 - 18.00)

Via alla Sacra, 14
10057 S. Ambrogio (TO)

For information and reservations:
tel. +
fax. +
e-mail: info@sacradisanmichele.com



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