One of the oldest places of Marian devotion in northern Italy
The Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Castelmonte, one of the oldest places of Marian worship in northern Italy, is nine kilometres from Cividale del Friuli, along the road leading to the border with Slovenia. Built where a Roman military post once stood, the site initially consisted of a small sacellum carved into the rock. From the 6th century AD onwards, it expanded to become a fortified village surrounding the chapel, with steep walls, stairways and various stone buildings, accessible today by taking the ascent leading to the hill of the cross known as Campuc or Utia.
A popular pilgrimage destination, the church, founded in the 15th century, still preserves several local artistic traces, such as the high altar from 1684, the work of Venetian masters. On the walls of the nave, ancient ex-votos, usually painted on wood, can be admired. The oldest part and first place of worship is the crypt dedicated to St Michael Archangel. Originally modest in size, it was expanded to its present size in the 1960s. Inscriptions of ancient pilgrims are still visible on the walls. Some steps lead down to the small cemetery, where eminent Capuchin friars are buried.