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.
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