Hermitage of San Michele
The Hermitage of San Michele is located on the southern slope in a natural cavity near Monte Nero at 1110 m. above sea level, on the border between the territories of Campagna and Oliveto Citra.
Its origins are very ancient and can probably be traced back to the development of the ancient town of Campagna. It is said that around the year 1240, one of the last farmhouses left outside the mountains, Sant'Angelo di Furano, was destroyed due to Longobard attacks; the inhabitants who survived the massacre - those who did not decide to take refuge in the mountain gorge protected by the Gerione Castle - fled to this mountain out of fear, led by the local nobleman, Paolo Carfagnio.
Once they reached the top, they decided to build a primitive and rustic church with adjoining room to stay there, naming it after San Michele, former protector of the farmhouse now reduced to ruins.
It has always been a pilgrimage destination and has always hosted some of the greatest bishops that the Diocese of Campagna has had as a dowry. Among the most renowned, we can include Monsignors De Luca, Fontana, Caramuel, Cesarano and Giuseppe Maria Palatucci .
Among the moments and events that this sacred place has experienced, it is right to stop and recall the stay of the probabilist bishop Juan Caramuel, a lover of such agonized tranquility that he just could not find in the inhabited center. It is precisely here that he completed and perfected many philosophical themes but, above all, gave life to his masterful work, the "Mathesis Biceps", the study of the binary mathematical system.
In memory of his stay, there is still a commemorative plaque there today.
The structure over the centuries has undergone many expansion and reinforcement works thanks to the presence of high prelates. Therefore, we continued to guarantee them an adequate stay and an easy journey; in fact, especially for the first centuries, access to the church was only possible via a ladder with wire or even by climbing among the rocks.
The keystone for the future existence of the place came when the primordial owner of the plot of land, the Olivetan prelate Belbuono, gave the entire structure and the entire complex in concession to the Cathedral Chapter institution.
The latter worked to complete the structural works, managing to make considerable efforts both in economic and social terms, considering the particular geography of the place. It is important to say that the devout will was of fundamental importance for the survival of the cave, handed over to posterity roughly as we see it today.
The Hermitage of San Michele is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the countryside city. Another fundamental element for the place was when, at the beginning of the last century, the Chapter decided to donate the management of the place to the still present Committee of the Hermitage of San Michele, which with diligence, devotion and passion still manages to implement centuries-old traditions such as the two processions held in the months dedicated to the "Head of the Angelic Hosts", in May and September, as well as guaranteeing the possibility for pilgrims to visit it.
It is only thanks to the Committee that to this day we have still perfectly preserved an ancient and mystical place, included among other things in a "Percorso Micaealico" of the entire Campania Region.
Not surprisingly mystical: an ancient and profound legend accompanies this sacred place. It is said that originally this cave belonged to the devil; then, one May morning in the early tenth century, the Saint dressed as a shepherd appeared to the devil telling him that he wanted to visit the cave and every place on the mountain. Before leaving, however, he arranged four stones on the ground to form a cross.
The evil one, at the sight of the symbol, let out agonizing screams and fled away to Lauropiano, leaving the shape of his claws in a stone. San Michele took possession of the cave and, wanting to make himself known to a herdsman from Puglietta, arranged for one of his bulls to enter it.
The pastor laboriously went up to get it back but, before arriving at the place where the altar was later built, he saw a young man wrapped in a shining light. Back in Puglietta, the man told everything to the ecclesiastical authorities and soon the news of the apparition of San Michele spread everywhere and that cavity became the destination of frequent pilgrimages.
Text edited by Cristian Viglione.
Revisions: Francesco Pezzuti.