The striking San Romedio sanctuary, which honors a hermit who is said to have lived out his final years with a pet bear, is composed of five churches. They were built over a period of 1,000 years next to a steep rock wall. A 130-step staircase leads visitors up the complex that represents a millennium of Roman Catholic history.
Two Franciscan friars attend to the structures at the top of the rocky crag in Northern Italy. There’s a road up to the canyon, but an old aqueduct (no longer in use) provides a scenic walking path up the sloping cliff.
Saint Romedius was a wealthy Bavarian nobleman who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries. He gave all his property to the church after spending time in Rome and lived out the rest of his life with two disciples in the caves of a cliffside in Val de Non. Legend says he once asked one of his companions to saddle his horse, to prepare for a ride down to see a friend. When the disciple returned with news that a bear had killed his horse, Romedius had him saddle the bear.
Around the year 1000, not quite 600 years after Romedius was laid to rest in a tomb in the cliffside, the sanctuary’s first church was built at at the highest point of a rocky crag near where he’d lived. The modest chapel was built from stones carried up the steep cliffside by generations of pilgrims to honor Romedius, who was officially recognised as a saint in 1300. He’s depicted at the site with the bear who stayed with him.
In 1489, a church dedicated to Saint George was added, and the chapel of Saint Michael was built in 1514. It features a Baroque altar added in 1713. In 1563, a larger church of Saint Romedius was built in front of the ancient church. And the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows was built for World War I veterans in 1918. The holy site is now visited by some 200,000 pilgrims every year.
Know Before You Go
It's best to park by the Museo Retico in Sanzeno village, where the path into the canyon starts.