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Sacra di San Michele

Sacra di San Michele Review

Perhaps best known as inspiration for the setting of Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose, Sacra di San Michele was built on Monte Pirchiriano in the 11th century so it would stand out: it occupies the most prominent location for miles around, hanging over a 3,280-foot bluff. When monks came to enlarge the abbey they had to build part of the structure on supports more than 90 feet high—an engineering feat that was famous in medieval Europe and is still impressive today. By the 12th century this important abbey controlled 176 churches in Italy, France, and Spain; one of the abbeys under its influence was Mont-Saint-Michel in France. Because of its strategic position the Abbey of Saint Michael came under frequent attacks over the next five centuries and was eventually abandoned in 1622. It was restored, somewhat heavy-handedly, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

From Porta dello Zodiaco, a splendid Romanesque doorway decorated with the signs of the zodiac, you climb 150 steps, past 12th-century sculptures, to reach the church. On the left side of the interior are 16th-century frescoes representing New Testament themes; on the right are depictions of the founding of the church. In the crypt are some of the oldest parts of the structure, three small 9th- to 12th-century chapels. Note that some sections of the abbey are open only on weekends and, when particularly crowded, visits may be limited to hour-long tours.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Via Sacra di San Michele 14, Sant'Ambrogio di Torino, 10057 | Map It
  • Phone: 011/939130
  • Cost: €5
  • Hours: Mid-Mar.–mid-Oct., Tues.–Sat. 9:30–12:30 and 2:30–6, Sun. 9:30–noon and 2:40–6:30; July–Sept., Mon.–Sat. 9:30–12:30 and 4:30–6, Sun. 9:30–noon and 2:40–6:30; mid-Oct.–mid-Mar., Tues.–Sat. 9:30–12:30 and 2:30–5, Sun. 9:30–noon and 2:40–5; Closed Mon. except Jul., Aug., Sept., when it's open 9:30–12:30 and 2:30–6
  • Website:
  • Location: Turin
Updated: 04-05-2013

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