Hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio – Roccamorice, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio

Roccamorice, Italy

This iconic rock hermitage was once the abode of a future pope.  

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The spectacular hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio, one of the many rock hermitages amongst the Majella’s peaks, sits on the side of a cliff overlooking the valley of Santo Spirito.

In the Middle Ages, hermits dug an entrance through the rock and carved the steps that lead to a small chapel which still preserves traces of medieval frescoes, specifically a fresco of Jesus Christ and one of the Virgin, located just above the door. At the back, small rooms served as dormitories for the pious. 

Peter of Morrone, later elected Pope Celestine V (who famously renounced the post soon into his tenure) lived here between 1274 and 1276 with his followers, but chose to abandon this hermitage in favor of the remoter San Giovanni all’Orfento due to the crowds drawn to his renowned holiness.

A rustic wooden statue of Saint Bartholomew is preserved inside the hermitage. As tradition has it that he was flayed alive, the saint brandishes a knife and his skin is wrapped around his right shoulder. Unsurprisingly, he is the patron saint of butchers and tanners.

 Every year, on August 25, the inhabitants of the small town of Roccamorice, within the National Park of Majella, take turns to walk the saint back from the hermitage to the town. Holy water from the hermitage is said to cure a number of ailments—a tradition attributed to the saint’s powerful healing abilities. 

 

Know Before You Go

From the Macchie di Coco restaurant, follow the marked trail for 30 minutes to the hermitage (the last stretch includes a steep stone staircase.) The hermitage is located along the five-day Cammino di Celestino long-distance trail.

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