The Sword of Saint Michael
Sep 28, 2017 / Written by: Michael Gorre
Quis ut Deus? Who is like unto God?
When Saint Michael the Archangel cast Satan and his demons into Hell during the Great Battle in Heaven, the war did not end there. As Satan continues to “prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls,” Saint Michael opposes him everywhere.
This enmity is symbolized by a mysterious geographic line called the “Sword of Saint Michael,” linking six shrines dedicated to the great Archangel. This line extends northwest to southeast from Skellig Michael in Ireland and ending at the Carmelite Monastery of Stella Maris Haifa, Israel. Some of these shrines were formerly places of pagan devil-worship. Transformed into some of the most sublime monasteries, basilicas and churches, these shrines to Saint Michael represent his victory over the devil and his powerful intercession before the Throne of God.
Skellig Michael, Ireland
In the sixth century, Irish monks established a monastery on a rock island eight miles off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. Seeking a place suited to extreme penance, lofty contemplation and acute solitude, the monks lived in stone huts high on the craggy summit of the rock. Only thirteen monks lived on the tiny island at a time, the abbot and twelve monks, symbolizing Our Lord and the Twelve Apostles. Skellig Michael (Michael’s Rock) was a monastery fittingly dedicated to the mightiest archangel.
Saint Michael’s Mount, England
On the coast of Cornwall in England is the site of another island monastery, Saint Michael’s Mount. Accessible only at low tide, the monastery has attracted countless pilgrims due to an apparition of Saint Michael to local fishermen and the miracles that occurred there.
Mont Saint Michel, France
The most iconic of all the shrines of Saint Michael is Mont Saint Michel on the coast of Normandy, France. In a vision to Saint Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, in the ninth century, the Archangel ordered him to build the shrine on what was formerly a Druid devil-worship site. One of the most sublime examples of Gothic architecture, Mont Saint Michel continues to attract pilgrims and visitors. Each year, on Saint Michael’s feast day, September 29, French paratroopers conduct a parachute jump in honor of their celestial patron.
Sacra di San Michele, Italy
The Sacra di San Michele near Turin, Italy, hangs on a spur of Mount Pirchiriano, commanding a panoramic view of the Val de Susa. Built on top of an ancient pagan settlement and a Roman fortification, this shrine housed a Benedictine monastery starting in the ninth century. Its setting is consistent with the epic location of Saint Michael’s other shrines.
Monte Sant’ Angelo sul Gargano, Italy
The most prominent shrine to Saint Michael, one associated with four apparitions of the Archangel, is found in a cave at the top of Monte Gargano. On the spur of Italy, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the Shrine of Monte Sant’ Angelo sul Gargano is known as the “Celestial Basilica,” having been blessed by the Archangel Michael himself in the fifth century after a series of miraculous events. In the seventeenth century, Saint Michael appeared to Bishop Alfonso Puccinelli and cured townspeople and anyone who devotedly kept stones from the cave marked with a cross and the initials “MA” (Michael Archangel). Many popes, nobles and saints number among the pilgrims who prayed at this shrine. Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land prayed to the Patron of Soldiers and carved numerous crosses on the cave walls.
Monastery of the Archangel Michael, Greece
On the island of Symi in Greece lies a monastery dedicated to Saint Michael built in the fifth century over the site of a temple to the pagan god Apollo. A miraculous icon of Saint Michael can be found there as well as a museum full of testimonials of the favors and graces granted through the intercession of Saint Michael, especially to sailors.
Carmelite Monastery of Stella Maris, Israel
All of these shrines point to the Carmelite Monastery of Stella Maris in Haifa, Israel. Situated on Mount Carmel, the monastery has a sweeping view of the Mediterranean Sea and the port city. It is only fitting that the sword line of St. Michael shrines points to a monastery dedicated to the Queen of Angels, Mary Most Holy, at what can be considered the entrance to the Holy Land upon which she and her Divine Son walked.
These are the shrines that make up the “Sword of Saint Michael.” They shine on the tops of high, epic places honoring the Archangel whose very name makes the demons tremble and the angels exalt....