Weapons and Power

A trousseau from the Collegno necropolis and the reproduction of inscriptions in the sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo.

Archangel Michael is a Biblical warrior angel, a heavenly warrior chief. On the basis of the scriptures, his traditional iconographic attribute is an unsheathed sword (or lance), together with a shield.

These warlike traits favoured the archangel’s adoption as patron saint by Byzantine, Lombard and Carolingian commanders and rulers. The invincible archangel became a symbol of victory and military power.

For the Lombards, a warrior people, adoption of the cult of Michael was facilitated by their recognition in – and transferral to – him of the attributes and characteristics of the Germanic god Wodan (Odin), worshipped as the supreme god of war, psychopomp (guide of the souls of the dead) and protector of heroes and warriors.

The foundation legend of the Gargano sanctuary reflects the strong link between the cult of Michael and the Lombard Benevento dynasty and (somewhat vaguely) commemorates the battle fought in about 650 between the Beneventans and Byzantines, won by the Lombard Duke Grimoald I (647-671). After that victory, Archangel Michael became the Lombards’ patron saint and the Gargano shrine began to be considered their “national” sanctuary.

Date: 26/01/2019 – 11/05/2019
Region: Puglia – Piemonte
Town: Monte Sant’Angelo – Torino
Subject: Micaelic cult

The “Lombards in the Limelight” project was organized to make known to a wider public the museums of the seven towns in the serial site (Cividale del Friuli, Brescia, Castelseprio-Torba, Spoleto, Campello sul Clitunno, Benevento, Monte Sant’Angelo), in collaboration with one another and several national museums with Lombard/Early Medieval sections.

This encounter involves 7 exhibition themes, which are divided between the 13 museums listed below.

Museo TECUM, Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo a Monte Sant’Angelo

The TECUM museums include the Galleria Longobarda which houses the worked stone collection, and more than 200 pieces of sculpture dating from the 4th to 15th – 16th centuries that come from the sanctuary and churches in the Gargano area.

Musei Reali e Museo di Antichità di Torino 

The Museo di Antichità was established in 1940 when the Egyptian collection was separated from the Greek and Roman material. It houses the historic collections, archaeological finds from Piedmont and a section dedicated to Turin’s archaeology.

The Lombards’ guardian cannot be an emaciated saint or a penitent monk.

The protector of a warrior people must be the prince of hosts, the Archangel warrior.

He who appears in the skies to lead to victory, he who with flaming sword and blond hair defeats rebel Satan. He, Archangel Michael, the heavenly defender capable of winning every battle. As once the god Wotan had done, Michael fought, ordered the ranks and took care of the souls of the fallen.

He struck, soothed and supported, like an ancient tribal chief, like a king in the new times.

The Lombards of Benevento invoked him with three days of fasting and prayer when they were attacked by the Byzantines. And he appeared in a dream to their bishop, assuring protection and victory.

It was the seal of a covenant, a pact. From then on, Duke Grimoald and his descendants considered Michael their heavenly guardian. When they arrived in 122 123 Pavia from Benevento to take the crown, Michael accompanied them, becoming the Lombards’ guide throughout the peninsula, Lombard Italy.

Silently in line, step by step, dukes, princesses, courtiers, the king, but also simple warriors and commoners descend into the sacred cave of Monte Sant’Angelo. Penitents kneel, asking forgiveness; warriors in shining armour write in runes; in the sanctuary nobles of the court dedicate inscriptions. The strongest of the men bow their heads before Michael, God’s soldier, the warrior chosen by the Almighty to put an end to chaos in the world. “Who is like God?” his means name in Hebrew.

And all the Lombards, kneeling at his feet, reply: “No one”. The heavenly hierarchy is the same as that on earth; it is based on the same principles and on the same order. And it is a Lombard order, everywhere

Mariangela Galatea Vaglio