Built right into a vertical cliff face on Italy’s Mount Baldo, the Santuario Madonna della Corona (Sanctuary of the Lady of the Crown) looks as though it is nearly suspended in mid-air.
The church does not actually hang on the sheer face but instead sits on a thin rock shelf that can only be reached by a thin path. Originally the secluded shelf was home to a hermitage where holy men could come for silent reflection, completely removed from the rest of the world. The actual church was built in 1530 and the site became a chapel for anyone wanting to pay pilgrimage and contemplate the nature of God in peace. The main chapel saw a number of changes over the ensuing centuries growing larger and at one point having a larger church built over the existing one.
Thanks to its relative inaccessibility the church was never totally destroyed or desecrated and managed to survive into the 20th century, crumbling a bit but intact. In the 1970s an Italian architect tore down much of the aging structure and built it back up, taking care to retain as many important artistic flourishes as possible.
Today the once treacherous mountain path to the chapel has been modernized and the remarkable church is still a popular pilgrimage site for visitors coming to see the Scala Santa, a replica of the stairs to Pilate’s palace that Jesus ascended before he was condemned to be crucified. Oh and also to see a church cling to a cliff like it is in hiding.
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