Pontificio Santuario Maria SS "ad Rupes" (Pontifical Sanctuary of Maria SS. ad Rupes) – Castel Sant'Elia, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Pontificio Santuario Maria SS "ad Rupes" (Pontifical Sanctuary of Maria SS. ad Rupes)

A monk spent 14 years carving steps through tuff to make this religious site more accessible to pilgrims.  


In 1777 Friar Giuseppe Andrea Rodio, a local hermit, decided to excavate a tunnel and construct 144 steps through the rocky cliffside to access a grotto known as the Virgin “Ad Rupes.” Inside the cave is a painting of the Virgin Mary with a rare depiction of baby Jesus lying asleep on her knees. It took the friar almost 14 years to complete the incredible task. There are several other relics inside the cave as well. 

The site dates back to the 5th-century and perhaps to the very first Christians in the region. It’s believed Benedictine monks established themselves in the natural caves and centuries laters, followers of the order constructed the Basilica of S. Elia. The Benedictine monks abandoned the monastery and basilica during the 13th century and it was only with the arrival of Friar Giuseppe that the site’s popularity was restored.

The sanctuary became the property of the Holy See in 1912 and is currently run by the Michaelite father (Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel). The present Basilica was constructed between 1908 and 1910 and was dedicated to Saint Joseph.

Know Before You Go

Check the website for hours and information on how to access the grotto. 

Community Contributors
Added by
Edited by

May 11, 2020

Make an Edit Add Photos
In partnership with KAYAK

Plan Your Trip

From Around the Web