Sanctuary of Italy in a mountain


Probably the most impressive church in Italy is located in a cave near the Italian town of Genga. Because the temple of Valadier is built in the center of the cave and has been visited for almost 200 years by faithful from all over the world. Today it is also a popular tourist destination.

In the Italian region of Marche (Marche), not far from the small town of Genga, there is a very special place of worship. The particularity of the Temple of Valadier is its location, as it is located inside a cave. One could almost get the impression that the small shelter was carved out of the rock itself, as its roof crouches below the cave ceiling. It is also known by its Italian name Tempio del Valadier or as “Refugium Peccatorum” – the refuge of sinners.

At first it was ordinary people who explored the Frassassi caves, where the temple of Valadier is located today. There was a very pragmatic reason for this: in the event of an enemy attack, the people of Genga simply retreated to these rocky hideouts like these official site of the region reported. They were safe there, so the place had effectively been a refuge since the 10th century. And probably much earlier. This is suggested by finds dating back to the Bronze Age.

Symbol of the resurrection of Jesus

Temple of Valadier
Due to its unique location, the Temple of Valadier is now also a magnet for touristsPhoto: Getty Images

Then, in 1828, what is probably the most illustrious citizen of Genga, Pope Leo XII, commissioned the construction of the Temple of Valadier. According to the travel site, it’s called “Villas Italy“ after the architect Guiseppe Valadier, who finally built the church. For his vision of a retreat, he built an octagonal building out of travertine, which he quarried above the cave. The eight sides of the temple symbolize the resurrection of Jesus.

Also of interest: the Thai fairy-tale temple Wat Rong Khun

It was also Pope Leo XII who conceived the Temple of Valadier as a place where Christians could pray for the forgiveness of their sins. That’s where its bizarre nickname comes from, because that’s just what countless people in the area and around the world have done as a result. Even today the church is an important pilgrimage site in Italy and its spectacular location has long made it a tourist attraction.

More visitor magnets

Unlike a “normal” Italian church, the interior of the Tempio del Valadier is very simple. There is only one Madonna figure with a child here. In addition to the rock church, the hermitage of Santa Maria infra Saxa, whose existence has been documented since 1029, is another small attraction in the town. And the Frassassi Caves themselves, with their bizarre stalactite formations, are now a magnet for visitors.

Also on the portal TripAdvisor users rave about the Temple of Valadier. “A unique and evocative place,” writes one. “The photos don’t do this place justice,” added a second. A third says, “Beautiful, and the view is absolutely awe-inspiring.” However, numerous users also point to a steep climb to the temple. It is located about 700 meters above sea level. But what sinners once took upon themselves to unload their burdens, today anyone with a clear conscience and thirst for adventure can easily do.

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