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E03238: The Apparition on Monte Gargano of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) is written in Latin presumably on the Gargano peninsula (southern Italy), perhaps in the later 7th c., and by the 9th at the latest. It narrates the miraculous origins of the cave-church of the Archangel on Monte Gargano and details of the cult practices that occur there. Also mentioned are the adjacent church dedicated to *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), with altars for *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) and *John (the Baptist, S00020).

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posted on 2017-07-11, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Apparition of Saint Michael on Mount Gargano (Liber de apparitione s. Michaelis in monte Gargano, BHL 5948)

§ 1: The church, a simple building, was built and consecrated by Michael himself. It is in the form of a cave on top of a high mountain in Campania twelve miles from the walls of Siponto, a city between the gulf of the Adriatic and Monte Gargano. A little book in the church tells its story.

§ 2: A rich man named Garganus has cattle grazing on the mountain and loses a bull. It is found with the help of servants on top of the mountain at the entrance of a cave. Angry, Garganus tries to hit it with a poisoned arrow but the arrow turns back towards him and strikes him. The citizens are amazed and ask their bishop what they should do. He orders a three-day fast to seek an answer from God. After it, the archangel Michael appears to the bishop in a vision and tells him that he is responsible for what happened: it was done to show that Michael is the protector of this place and its inhabitants. After this the citizens start to pray to the Lord and to Michael there. They discover two doors: the largest, on the southern side, can be reached by several steps. They do not dare to enter but pray in front of the doors.

§ 3: The pagan Neapolitans declare war on the Sipontines and the Beneventans, who live 250 miles from Siponto. The Beneventans, following their bishop's advice, obtain a three-day truce during which they fast and pray to gain Michael's protection, while the pagans ask their gods for help by performing shows. The night before the war, Michael appears to the bishop in a vision and tells him that he will be present in the battle. In the morning, there is a great storm and a dense fog over Monte Gargano, and the pagans are killed and flee; they are pursued back to Naples. Those who survive submit to Christ. The victors thank the Lord at the temple of the archangel. They see footprints imprinted in the marble close to the northern door and attribute them to Michael. Later a roof is built over it and an altar is place there, hence the church is called Apodonia [name of uncertain meaning possibly related to the footprints; Everett 2016, 81 n. 27, suggests it could come from the Greek από (from) + πούς (foot)].

§ 4: The Sipontines wonder how to consecrate the place. After a meeting, they decide to found the church on the eastern side, and dedicate it to the Apostle Peter, with two altars for the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The bishop learns about these plans and asks for the approval of the bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome happens to be staying on Mount Soracte, nearly fifty miles from Rome, which is also called 'Sanctus Silvester' because Silvester [the bishop of Rome at the time of the conversion of Constantine] had been exiled there. The bishop of Rome says that it would be appropriate to consecrate the church on the anniversary of the victory in battle, that will soon occur, but seeking Michael's approval on the same day, after fasting for three days. On the last day of this fast, Michael appears to the bishop of Siponto in a vision and tells him that he should not dedicate the basilica, since this was already done by him. Prayers and mass should be performed as usual; Michael will show how he has consecrated the place.

§ 5: At veniunt mane cum oblationibus et magna instantia precum, intrant regiam australem, et ecce longa porticus in aquilonem porrecta atque illam attigens ianuam, extra quam vestigia marmori diximus impressa; sed priusquam huc pervenias, apparet ad orientem basylica grandis, qua per gradus ascenditur. Haec cum ipso porticu suo quingentos fere homines capere videbatur, altare venerandum rubroque contectum palliolo prope medium parietis meridiani ostendens.

'When they came the next morning with offerings and many earnest prayers, they entered through the southern hall, and here a long colonnade extends to the north until it reaches that door we mentioned that has the footprints impressed in the marble outside. But before you come to this point, to the east there appears a large basilica that is reached by a set of stairs. This church and its colonnade together seemed to hold nearly five-hundred people, and displayed its altar for veneration covered with red cloth near the middle of the southern wall.'

The church is in a cave and thus the walls are of uneven height: in this way Michael shows that it is not the shape of the stone but the purity of the heart that matters. Outside the cave there is a forest and a green plain.

§ 6: After mass, people return home rejoicing. The bishop appoints ministers, priests and cantors, and lodgings are built for them. He also orders psalms to be chanted and masses to be celebrated every day. At night no one dares to enter the cave. Clear water comes out by drops from the rock near the northern altar, called 'the drop' (stilla) by locals.

Ob hoc et vitreum vas eiusdem receptui preparatum argentea pendit catena suspensum, morisque est populo communicato singulos ad hoc vasculum ascendere per gradus donumque caelestis degustare liquoris. Nam et gustu suavis est et tactu salubris. Denique nonnulli post longas foebrium flammas has austa stilla celeri confestim refrigerio potiuntur salutis.

'A glass vase made for collecting the water hangs there on a silver chain, and it is a custom that the people go after mass to climb the stairs one by one to this little vase and taste the gift of the celestial liquid. For it is both sweet to the taste and good for one's health. In fact, some people who have long suffered from the flames of fever immediately experience the swift cooling of restored health upon drinking this "drop".'

Many sick are healed there and miracles happen thanks to the angel's power. The greatest miracle however happens on his feast day, when a large crowd gathers from the neighbouring provinces.

Text: Waitz 1878, 541-543. Translations: Everett 2016, 79-53, lightly adapted. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Silvester, bishop of Rome, ob. 336 : S00397 John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Michael Petrus Maria Silvester Iohannes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Mount Gargano

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Mount Gargano Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants Punishing miracle Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous interventions in war Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Angels Pagans Slaves/ servants Animals Crowds Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious cloths Registers of miracles Other Ampullae, flasks, etc.


The most widespread version of the Apparition, and thought to be the earliest, is BHL 5948, our focus here, preserved in more than 150 manuscripts (see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta at and references to further manuscripts and studies in Everett 2002 364-365). The earliest are from the late 8th or the 9th century: Bruxelles, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes 14, f. 43v-44v (9th-10th c.); Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Vittorio Emmanuele 1190, f. 250v-251r (9th or possibly late 8th c.); St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek 550, p. 39-53 (9th c.); St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek 558, p. 314-320 (9th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Pal. lat. 430, 184r-186r (9th-10th c.). The Apparition was also translated into Greek at an early date (Leanza, A., "Una versione greca inedita dell'Apparitio S. Michaelis in monte Gargano", Vetera christianorum 22 (1985), 291-316).


The Apparition contains a wealth of evidence about the cult of the archangel in a cave transformed into a church on Monte Gargano in Puglia, southern Italy, with descriptions of cult buildings. The Apparition also refers to cult related objects such as a little book (libellus) found in the church containing the story about Michael, the archangel's footprints in the rock, and water dropping from the rock which is collected in a vase, drunk by churchgoers and used as a cure. The Apparition also points to the growing popularity of the shrine, with crowds gathering from nearby provinces, particularly on the feast day. It should, however, be noted that, while the text mentions the feast day of the archangel, it does not specify when this was (this is discussed in Everett 2002). The Apparition was written by the early 9th century at the latest, when Rabanus Maurus borrowed from it and when the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Apparition were copied (although the earliest manuscript now in Rome may go back to the end of the 8th century). Since the Apparition does not contain any specific clues, it is, however, difficult to provide a more accurate dating, hypotheses ranging from the 6th to the 9th century (see an overview in Everett 2002 and in Everett 2016, 76-77, with further bibliography). Everett suggests that the composition should be situated in the aftermath of the appropriation of the shrine by the church of Benevento, following the annexation of the Gargano peninsula by the Beneventan dukes Grimoald and Romuald in the second half of the 7th century.


Edition (BHL 5948): Waitz, G., Liber de apparitione sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano et ex vita sancti Laurentii Sipontini, in: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum langobardicarum et italicarum saec. VI-IX (Hannover, 1878), 541-543. English translation: Everett, N., Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy, AD c. 350-800 (Toronto, 2016), 79-83. Further reading: Everett, N., "The Liber de apparitione s. Michaelis in monte Gargano and the hagiography of dispossession," Analecta Bollandiana 120/2 (2002), 364-391. Everett, N., Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy. AD c. 350-800 (Toronto, 2016), 73-78.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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