Thought to have been founded around 1030 by Saint Albert of Butrio on the hills of Oltrepò, this medieval hermitage has offered hospitality to religious pilgrims for centuries. But it’s the unusual and unadorned tomb that brings out flocks of curious researchers.
The outside of the hermitage, made of stone and wood, is very simple. It mirrors the style of other churches in the high part of Oltrepò. Along one of the exterior walls you can find a small hollow, where legend says lies the tomb of an English king.
Thanks to local tradition and to a bit of historical proof, some historians argue that Edward II, after he escaped from Berkeley Castle, found refuge in Staffora Valley. They suppose he, like so many other previous weary travelers, sought shelter in the hermitage. Though the English king’s more likely burial place is at Gloucester Cathedral, nobody can say for sure, which increases the air of mystery that surrounds this striking church.
The interior, made up of three chapels, is astonishing and is also worth checking out. Upon entering the first chapel, you’re surrounded by a series of frescos, all over the walls, that tell the stories of saints and miracles. The second chapel, the oldest one, is both charming and fascinating and leads into the third chapel. This is the smallest one, where you’ll find the tomb of Saint Albert, as well as beautiful and picturesque frescoes.
In this chapel there’s also a strange wax figure of Saint Albert, ordered by Saint Luigi Orione, which allegedly contains the bones of the hermitage’s founder. In the courtyard, looked after by the friars of the hermitage, you can enjoy a marvelous view of the Staffora Valley.
Know Before You Go
You can follow a track that brings you to the grotto where Saint Albert used to pray.
Today the Hermitage is inhabited by the Hermits of Divine Providence. They keep bees and sell their delicious products in a small shop.
In the crypt you can see the tomb of Venerable Brother Ave Maria, a blind friar of the Hermitage that is famous for his charity actions.