The Sacra of St. Michael the Archangel is a unique monument of national importance, home to legends of ancient Celtic pagan cults and an example of religious architecture with Romanesque elements and a grandiose construction completed in the XII century.
The Abbey of St. Michael lies on a rocky mountain at the top of the Mount Pirchiriano (962 meters high), located at the beginning of the Susa Valley, along the route that in ancient times took pilgrims heading to the Holy Land.
This Benedictine monastery was preceded by three small churches. It is believed that here, at the beginning of our era, there was a Roman Christian chapel serving the religious needs of the Roman legions going north to conquer the Gaul.
The architectural complex of the Abbey is one of the largest religious monuments in Europe.
The main portal gives way to the entrance through high and step stairs (the “Stairs of the Dead”), symbolizing the spiritual and physical effort required to climb up to the church. This stairway is called “of the dead” because tombs of monks and benefactors of the monastery are located along it.
These stairs end at the “Gates of the Zodiac”, the most valuable work of art from the Middle Ages preserved in this complex.
The foundations of the church rest directly on the rocky top of the mountain. It contains samples of sculptures and architecture of the Romanesque and Gothic periods. The opening of the apse is framed by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and another of Archangel St. Gabriel.
The complex of the monastery also houses the “Tower of the beautiful Alda”. The legend tells of a beautiful girl who jumped twice from the walls, but was only once saved by the angels…
The cult of St. Michael the Archangel is one of the oldest cults in Europe.
By an amazing coincidence, the Sacra of St. Michael is exactly in the middle of two other holy places also dedicated to his cult: The Monte Sant’Angelo in Puglia (south of Italy) and the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy (north of France).