What an amazing story about St. Michael!
St. Michael the Archangel miraculously appeared four times in the following story, therefore dedicating his own basilica, the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo.
St. Michael’s First Apparition
Between the third and eighth centuries, legend says that while a wealthy man named Gargano tended his animals, one of his bulls escaped and wandered off alone. Angered at finding the bull grazing by himself in front of a cave, he shot a poisoned arrow at it.
The arrow then turned around and hit him! Gargano was so disturbed that he told the bishop about his experience.
The bishop then ordered three days of prayer and fasting. On the final day, St. Michael appeared to the bishop.
St. Michael said:
“You have done well to ask God what was hidden from men. A miracle struck the man with his own arrow, so that it was clear that all this happens by my will.
“I am the Archangel Michael and I am always in the presence of God. The cave is sacred to me. And since I have decided to protect this place and its inhabitants on earth, I wanted to attest in this way that I am of this place and of everything that takes place as patron and custodian.
“Where the rock is thrown open, the sins of men can be forgiven. What will be asked here in prayer will be granted. Go therefore to the mountain and dedicate the cave to Christian worship.”
The bishop did not immediately follow St. Michael’s request because this cave was once a place of pagan worship.
St. Michael’s Second Apparition
St. Michael then appeared again in 492. However, this appearance connects to the fight between the Byzantines and the Lombards from 662-663, in which the Greeks attacked the Sanctuary of Gargano. Duke of Benevento Grimoaldo I, came to the sanctuary’s defense.
The account reads, “[…] And then the same night, which preceded the day of the battle, St. Michael appeared in vision to the bishop (Lorenzo Maiorano), he says that the prayers have been answered, he promises to be present and warns to give battle to the enemies at fourth hour of the day.”
Traditionally, the Duke of Benevento defeated the Greeks on May 8, and the battle was “accompanied by earthquakes, thunderbolts and lightning,” on May 8.
May 8 is now celebrated in the Catholic Church as the feast of the anniversary of the apparitions of St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Michael’s Dedication & Third Appearance
After the victory of Grimoaldo, Bishop Maiorano submitted to St. Michael’s request and decided to dedicate the sanctuary.
However, St. Michael appeared again and said to the Bishop of Siponto:
“It is not your task to consecrate the Basilica I built. I who founded it, I myself consecrated it. But you go in and go to this place, placed under my protection.”
Bishop Lorenzo, seven Apulian bishops, the Sipontino clergy, and the people of the land proceeded to the sacred mountain.
According to the Basilica’s website, a miracle occurred on their journey.
“Some eagles, with their spread wings, sheltered the bishops from the rays of the sun. Once at the Grotto, they found a rough altar erected there, covered with a vermilion pallium and surmounted by a Cross. Moreover, as the legend tells, they found in the rock the footprint of San Michael.”
This basilica is also known as the “Celestial Basilica” because St. Michael dedicated it himself.
The Fourth Apparition
In 1656, southern Italy experienced a terrible plague. Bishop Alfonso Puccinelli resorted to prayers and fasting, and asked for St. Michael’s intercession.
While in prayer, he felt an earthquake as St. Michael appeared to him “in a dazzling splendor and ordered him to bless the stones of his cave, carving on them the sign of the cross and the letters ‘MA’ (Michael Archangel).
“Anyone who had devotedly kept those stones with him would have been immune to the plague.”
St. Michael then cured the city and anyone who requested these stones.
These stones are now considered St. Michael’s relics and are successfully used for exorcisms.
The bishop later ordered a St. Michael statue to be built. The monument faces the balcony of the room where St. Michael appeared to him.