ON THE PATHS OF TRANSCENDENCE IN ABRUZZO
The Majella massif is, together with the vast and distant land of Tibet, the place most dotted with hermitages. The anchorites choose the mother mountain of Abruzzo to completely dedicate their lives to prayer and spiritual asceticism, voluntarily separated from worldly society, devoted to monastic solitude, but without practicing the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The wild and primitive lands, abandoned and plagiarized by natural weather, of the Majella, have been chosen by many hermits, including Pietro da Morrone, the pope who made “the great renunciation”, as a place in which to turn the soul to contemplation.
HERMITAGE Of Fratta Grande di Pretara
The hermitage rests on a rocky wall a few steps from the Ruzzo stream. A staircase leads to the entrance of the modest building, preceded by a wooden cross. The church preserves, above the main altar, a painting depicting St. Francis of Paola, a saint of which Fra Nicola, the last hermit of the Gran Sasso, was very devout and in the side chapel, a nativity scene built by the anchorite.
HERMITAGE of S. Michele
The hermitage of San Michele Arcangelo, dating back to the twelfth century, is a splendid example of a rock church, obtained from a cave. The living space is obtained from a small temple of pagan origin, probably dedicated to the cult of the god Hercules. During the pagan colonization and the spread of Christianity, the cave was consecrated to the cult of St. Michael the Archangel, protector of the Germanic people. The interior retains a beautiful floor of local white stone slabs and a finely worked balustrade that encloses the altar and a statue of the patron saint, in stark contrast to the rustic structure of the vault.
HERMITAGE of S. Venanzio Raiano
The Church is built on a rocky spur close to the Aterno River, in a splendid green oasis, with manicured paths and equipped pitches. The interior has three altars, the side altars dedicated to St. Peter and St. John the Baptist, and the main altar, protected by a balustrade, which leads to a holy staircase, completely carved into the rock, which leads to a small cave, overlooking the river, where the faithful can admire, in the shape of the rock, the imprint of the saint’s body. Pilgrims place their hand on the footprint in the rock with the hope of curing arthritic pain.
Hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio (Roccamorice)
The ancient Hermitage of San Bartolomeo rises in the driest part of the Vallone di San Bartolomeo, at an altitude of 600 meters, covered by a natural rock ceiling. Its origins date back to the year 1000, but it was rebuilt and made famous by the future Pope Celestine V. Inside the chapel, the channels dug into the rock collect the “holy waters”, which draw from the place where the power of heal from all evil. Pilgrims who visit the hermitage usually collect small quantities of the miraculous water in a bottle and mix it with the water of the valley, which is also believed to have thaumaturgical powers.
Eremo Santo Spirito in Majella (Roccamorice)
Of origins prior to the year 1000, the first traces of its existence date back to 1053, when Desiderio, the future Pope Victor III, resided there. Petrarch, citing the hermitage in his “De vita Solitaria” defined it as “one of the most suitable places for spiritual asceticism”. Starting from the town, a steep road leads to the valley of Santo Spirito and the hermitage of the same name, which Pietro Angeleri chose as the mother house of his monastic community. The complex includes an oratory, the monks’ dormitory and cells for cenobitic retreats. Today the hermitage consists of the Church, the Sacristy, the Guest House on two floors and five cells, as well as the holy staircase carved into the rock, which leads to the oratory of the Magdalene.
Hermitage of San Giovanni all’Orfento – Caramanico Terme
The Hermitage of San Giovanni all’Orfento, located at an altitude of over 1200 meters, in an inaccessible place within the boundaries of the municipality of Caramanico, is certainly the most inaccessible of the places inhabited by Celestino V. The pilgrim who wants to visit it, with the authorization of the Forestry Command, to reach it he will have to cling to the hand grips fixed on the rock. The anchorite spent long periods of penance here. During the periods of the master’s absence, the hermitage was inhabited by his disciples. A very small cross on the rock marks the beginning of the access stairway, about 8 meters long and made up of 20 steps, and of the walkway, carved into the wall, which stops a few meters from the entrance, forcing the visitor to crawl. The rooms are equipped with niches, the most important contains an altar inside. The water system that makes rainwater flow into a cistern is interesting.
Eremo Sant’Onofrio al Morrone – Sulmona
The Hermitage of Sant’Onofrio stands out against the overhangs of the locality called Badia, on the slopes of Morrone, reached by a path carved into the rock, sometimes marked by a steep staircase. Brother Pietro Angeleri spent most of his life in this hermitage and received the news of his election as pontiff, reached by the delegates of the Sacred College preceded by King Charles of Anjou. Even today the place retains much of its original charm, the cells dug into the rock, inhabited by Peter and his favorite pupil and an oratory with frescoes dating back to the thirteenth century, and a painting of the Pope from the fifteenth century, relevant from an iconographic point of view, as it was made shortly after his death. An external staircase leads to the cave below, the friar’s first refuge. The faithful believe they see, imprinted in the rock, the cast of the body of the sleeping saint and to draw relief from rheumatic pain, rubbing themselves against the bare rock, made moist by the water that flows from it. The hermitage is preceded by a loggia, with a splendid view of the Sanctuary of Ercole Curino and a small garden carved out of the rocks.
Hermitage of Our Lady of the Altar
The Hermitage of the Madonna dell’Altare is reached by an easy road that winds after the Passo della Forchetta. Pilgrims, however, choose the more rugged paths in the woods, more in keeping with the penitentiary path. The Hermitage is closed in the winter months with a liturgical celebration with pastoral references and is reopened on the day of Pentecost. Mentioned by Father Quirino Salomone in a monograph on Pope Celestine V, the hermitage is recognized as the first place chosen by the anchorite in his path of spiritual asceticism: “once he reaches the Majella, he stops in a cave and begins the true and own. The first signs of temptation and the first celestial signs. The fear of the dark and the company of the angels ”which prompted the friars to take priestly vows together with the people of the surrounding area.