Between a Rock and a Hard Place: S. Lucia in Sassinoro

April 8, 2010 / Places
Sassinoro, Campania

A narrow road leads towards the tiny, secluded sanctuary of S. Lucia in Sassinoro in the province of Benevento. Like with many holy places, a legend surrounds this unusual sanctuary. It began in the spring of 1600 as a shepherd’s tale. A large number of sheep had been mysteriously disappearing and just as mysteriously reappearing again after a few minutes, so one day the shepherds decided to follow the flock.  They discovered that the animals were going in and out of a split in the rocky face of the mountain.  The shepherds therefore squeezed through the narrow crack and made their way into the hillside until they reached a grotto. There, they were suddenly blinded by the appearance of a beautiful woman and a handsome young man bathed in shimmering light. 

CrossThey ran home to tell of their miraculous encounter and returned with the town priest to verify the account.  In the grotto they found a statue of S. Lucia and S. Michele!  The town fathers decided to erect a place of worship on the spot and construction of the sanctuary began in 1622. It was completed in 1643. 

Today this quaint little church sits quietly in the mountain above the village of Sassinoro. But once inside, the feeling becomes one of awe: the apse is dramatically set in the huge overhanging face of the grotto. It is also still possible to squeeze through the original path which the shepherds took on all fours, to view the ancient statues of S. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind, and S. Michele.

A small room off the side of the church is filled with reliquaries containing silver ex-votos donated by faithful worshipers who have regained their sight after praying to S. Lucia.


Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”,, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

2 Responses to “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: S. Lucia in Sassinoro”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Fascinating note Barbara. I particularly love the ex-voto sets of eyes!

  2. Ralph De Lucia

    Thank you for this story. I have been to Sassinoro to visit where my mother came from. I walked the narrow streets of this windy hill town and saw my grandfather and great grandfathers houses. We drove to the grotto high above the town and made a devotion where my mother and the family would walk the winding road or take a donkey cart to pray over 80 years ago.


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