The Holy Lance of Love
It may surprise some Christian readers that a weapon of war, a mighty spear, is part of a spiritual path that leads to compassion and love. Perhaps it is appropriate that one spear (and sword) is given to the Archangel Michael to defend the throne of God from the assault of Lucifer who desired to sit on the throne of God and take his place. Certainly, defending God from this attack justified the War in Heaven and Lucifer being cast out of the presence of God.
The fiery spear of Michael is a spiritual tool that is used to hold Lucifer (dragon) at bay so that his evil might be changed to good. This type of outcome makes the spear and sword of Michael into a spiritual weapon that vanquishes evil and leads the battle for the good. But to apply that type of spiritual logic to the spear that pierced the side of Jesus on the cross is difficult for some to understand.
We first need to remember that Jesus of Nazareth was a spiritual warrior who directly confronted and defeated the evil of his time with courage that was unmatched. Jesus sacrificed his life for the good of all of humanity as a divine being descending consciously from the throne of God into the dark realm of humanity’s earth. Christ said to ‘turn the other cheek’ but he also stood up to the evil Sanhedrin and fought for the Gospel of the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Jesus overturned the tables of the money lenders in the temple and faced off the Roman Empire’s stranglehold on the Hebrew people. Jesus is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew (10:34) saying: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
These words are seldom quoted by Christians but indicate that Jesus was a radical spiritual warrior who was grappling with Lucifer and Satan to ransom the spiritual heart of humans from the grip of evil. The Archangel Michael is a mighty warrior for God but Christ is the conqueror of evil in this material world. Jesus was a soldier of God, like the Archangel Michael who is called the face or continence of Christ. Christ and Michael work together in the battle for the soul of humanity. Michael is clad with the flaming sword given to him by God and the fiery spear that rent the curtain of heaven. Christ is gird with compassion, love, and the grace and mercy of the divine.
These spiritual weapons of Christ conquered Lucifer and Satan and hold them at bay like the Archangel Michael binds the dragon so that it will not consume the child who is born of the Virgin “surrounded by the sun and stars with the moon beneath her feet” that we read about in the Apocalypse of John the Beloved.
The Book of Wisdom (5:17-20) tells us: “The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breast plate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield, and sharpen stern wrath for a sword, and creation will join with him to fight against his frenzied foes.”
Whether we use the heavenly armor of righteousness, impartiality, holiness and wrath or we use the soldier’s tools of a spear, a sword, a shield, a breast plate, a helmet, and a swift and mighty horse, the battle must be engaged and the conquering of one’s lower self is the prerequisite for the questing knight longing to find the grail (higher self). It may seem like an analogy or a metaphor of spiritual fancy, but the war against evil within and without is raging and the holy grail of love is the only victory in the war. It is incumbent upon the seeker of the grail to pass through the stages of purification, renunciation, and dedication to the quest, and to the perfection of their souls as worthy vessels (grails) that receive the outpouring of the spirit.
We are given a further injunction by the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (6:10-18) that sounds like a call to battle:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
We are told to take the ‘sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ to withstand the evil. This is a fight to the finish that will take all the seeker’s moral development to withstand the assault of evil. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayers create the armor of the soldier of God. Each spiritual weapon is seen as a preparation for the encounter with evil in our day. We must make the commitment to fight evil with every spiritual part of our being and not surrender to the onslaught of the dragon. This war must be fought to make our way through the world to the place where the grail castle (Garden of Eden, Paradise) is found. Once we find our inheritance, the grail castle, we can lay down our weapons and finally rest as we assume our role as the queen/king of the grail – the master of our lower-self and ruler of our spiritual higher-self.
The archetypal grail soldier is Longinus, who was the first one to say aloud that ‘surely, this must be the Son of God’ and was then healed of his blindness. It is said that the Archangel Michael guided the spear of Longinus so that it would pierce the heart of Jesus Christ and release the blood and water to fall onto the earth and redeem all humanity. Longinus’s deed was an act of compassion to keep the Sanhedrin from breaking the legs of Jesus to accelerate his death. Longinus knew that Jesus had already died and pierced his side so that his legs would not be broken. The lance of the centurion Longinus thus became the “Lance of Love” that resembles the spear of Michael.
We are told of the merciful deed of Longinus in the Gospel of John (19:34-37) in the following words: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him shall not be broken.’ And again, another scripture saith, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced.’”
When Longinus had pierced Jesus and the blood and water touched his eyes and healed him, Longinus became the first grail knight – soldier of Christ – to convert from outward war and fighting to the inner battle for the spirit of each human heart. Longinus became the first grail knight to seek after the grail, find the grail, and ask whom the grail serves. Longinus found the “Christ” in Jesus (the quest), dedicated his life to Christ’s mission, and then protected and participated in the grail procession (“Way of the Cross”) and became a grail king – one who knows his higher-self through Christ.
Longinus was a spiritual tool of the Archangel Michael and realized that letting the divine work through him was the path he was always seeking. Longinus immediately converted to a follower of Jesus Christ and served the Mother of Jesus like she was his own mother. Longinus helped Joseph of Arimathea take down the body of Jesus from the cross and clean and prepare it for burial. The next day, Longinus resigned his position as a Roman centurion and turned in his horse, sword and shield. Longinus gave the spearhead of his Roman centurion hasta to the mother of Jesus for safe keeping. He then stayed faithful to Mary for the next eleven years until her Assumption into heaven at Ephesus.
The Roman Catholic church, which celebrates the great Feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29, tells us about the nature and work of the Archangel Michael who was so closely over-lighting Longinus. Let’s examine the cosmic battle between Michael and Lucifer and explore how Michael was able to cast out Lucifer (Satan) and his cohort of fallen angels.
From Revelation (12:1-9) we hear about the battle between Michael and the dragon:
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:
And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.
And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.
And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels:
And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduces the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
In Luke (10:18-20), Jesus refers to this “fall from heaven” to his apostles in the following words:
“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”
In Isaiah (14:12-15) we find a reference to Lucifer:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations? “And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the most-High. But yet, thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit.”
We have another powerful description of the War in Heaven in Ezekiel (28:11-18):
“Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes on the earth in the sight of all who saw you.”
We can see from these passages that Satan was once called “Lucifer” or “light-bearer” and sought to usurp God, exalting himself above all. Yet, he was cast down from heaven by Michael the Archangel along with a “third” of the other angels who rebelled against God.
The Roman Catholic Church affirms that Lucifer/Satan was once a good angel and that he (and many other angels) freely chose to reject God. Lucifer knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to rebel against God and knew its implications. This rebellion was accomplished at the beginning of time, shortly after the creation of the angels, before the creation of men. This can be deduced simply by the fact that Lucifer/Satan (the old dragon, the father of lies) was already present in the Garden of Eden.
Traditionally speaking, all angels were created at the very beginning of creation. On the first day when God made “light,” the “light” He made was the angels (Genesis 1:3). This is further confirmed when God “divided the light from the darkness,” referring to the rebellion of the angels led by Lucifer (Genesis 1:4). Tradition also tells us that Lucifer was created by God as a “Seraphim,” in the highest choir of angels, while Michael was an “Archangel.”
The Roles of St. Michael
In Roman Catholicism, Saint Michael has four distinct roles. First, he is the enemy of Lucifer/Satan and the fallen angels. He defeated Lucifer and ejected him from Paradise and will achieve victory at the hour of the final battle with Lucifer. Secondly, he is the Christian angel of death: at the hour of death, Saint Michael descends and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing. Saint Michael’s third role is weighing souls (hence the saint is often depicted holding scales) on Judgment Day. And finally, Saint Michael is the Guardian of the Church.
Saint Michael is viewed as the commander of the Army of God. From the time of the apostles, he has been invoked and honored as the protector of the Church. Scripture describes him as “one of the chief princes” and the leader of heaven’s forces in their triumph over the powers of hell.
Saint Michael defeats Satan two times, first when he ejects Lucifer from Paradise, and then in the final battle at the end times when the Antichrist will be defeated by him. “Who is like God?” was the cry of Archangel Michael when he smote the rebel Lucifer in the conflict of the heavenly hosts.
Saint Michael is one of the angels presumed present at the hour of death. Traditionally, he is charged to assist the dying and accompany their souls to their judgement, where he serves as an advocate. Cemetery chapels are often dedicated to him and masses are offered in his honor on behalf of the departed. In Catholic tradition, on Judgment Day Saint Michael weighs souls based on their deeds during their life on earth. Saint Michael has long been recognized as the protector and guardian of the Church itself and the angel of the Blessed Sacrament (Holy Grail Mysteries).
The emperor Constantine built the Michaelion at Chalcedon dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Other sanctuaries were located at healing springs in Anatolia, Antioch, Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome (Castle of the Holy Angel), and Egypt. Legends include reported appearances of Saint Michael, where sanctuaries or churches were later built or dedicated to him. These include Monte Gargano in Italy early in the 6th century, where the Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, the oldest shrine in Western Europe is dedicated to Saint Michael. Early in the 8th century, Saint Michael reportedly appeared three times to Saint Aubert, the bishop of Avranches in Normandy, France and instructed him to build a church on the small island now known as Mont Saint-Michel. Several healings were reported when the church was being built and Mont Saint-Michel still remains a Catholic pilgrimage site.
The role of Saint Michael as protector and guardian has also led to the design of statues that depict him and the construction of churches and monasteries at specific locations. Because most monastic islands lie close to land, they were viewed as forts holding demons at a distance against attacks on the church. Monasteries such as Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy, France and Skellig Michael, off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland, dedicated to the Archangel Michael are examples of these. Another notable structure is that of St Michael’s Mount, located in Mounts Bay, near Penzance, Cornwall – a stunning island castle that resembles Mont Saint-Michel, and can only be reached on foot at low tide.
Archangel Michael and the War in Heaven
In the early 8th century AD, on a wild, inhospitable rock, the cult of the Archangel Michael turned the site into an important place of pilgrimage and led to the development of the Abbey. The cult of Saint Michael goes back to the 5th century AD. In Italy, the Monte Gargano is a site dedicated to St Michael recognized since the end of Antiquity, before the cult of the Archangel extended to the whole of medieval Western Europe.
According to the Revelatio ecclesiae sancti michaelis, the oldest text recording the origins of Mont-Saint-Michel, the first foundations of the Abbey were laid in the year 708. This date was chosen as that when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, built the first sanctuary dedicated to the Archangel Michael on Mont-Tombe, now Mont-Saint-Michel. According to the legend, the Archangel appeared to Aubert three times in a dream, asking him to establish a sanctuary in his name.
As tradition has it, on the third attempt, the Archangel went as far as poking his finger into Aubert’s skull to get him to perform his wishes. Aubert sent messengers to the Monte Gargano in Italy, to bring back the relics of the Archangel to the Mont-Tombe. Once completed, the sanctuary was finally dedicated to Saint Michael on 16 October 709.
Michael in the Hebrew language means “Who is like God?” or “Who is equal to God?” Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer/Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear, there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.
Gabriel means “God is my strength” or “Might of God.” He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper or the holy grail. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.
Uriel means “God is my light”, or “Light of God” (II Esdras 4:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword in his right hand, and a flame in his left.
In Sumerian mythology, the deity known as Asaruludu is “the wielder of the flaming sword” who “ensures the most perfect safety.”
According to the Bible, a cherub (or the Archangel Uriel in some traditions) with a flaming sword was placed by God at the gates of Paradise after Adam and Eve were banished from it as told in Genesis 3:24: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever.” So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden a Cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” Eastern Orthodox tradition says that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, the flaming sword was removed from the Garden of Eden, making it possible for humanity to re-enter Paradise.
In Welsh mythology, the Dyrnwyn (White-Hilt) is said to be a powerful sword belonging to Rhydderch Hael, one of the Three Generous Men of Britain mentioned in the Welsh Triads. When drawn by a worthy or well-born man, the entire blade would blaze with fire. Rhydderch was never reluctant to hand the weapon to anyone, hence his nickname Hael “the Generous”, but the recipients, as soon as they had learned of its peculiar properties, always rejected the sword. Its fire would burn the man who drew it for an unworthy purpose.
The sword wielded by the Norse god Surtr, a jotunn of Muspelheim, is a flaming sword with immense destructive power that appears in Norse mythology.
There is no end to the stories of flaming swords in myths, legends and religious belief. The flaming sword or fiery spear is the initiator of the blood mysteries and is a crucial element for the procession of the grail maidens. This sword or spear is responsible for shedding the holy blood that fills the Holy Grail. Spear and chalice, or sword and cup belong together as the spiritual tools to find the holy blood that redeems the seeker and nourishes their soul.
Archangels of the Grail
According to some traditions, Ratziel (Samael, Azriel) was the holy guardian angel of the supernal Adam in the Garden of Eden, and thus is said to be the great guardian and guide of the elect. Although Gabriel is considered the keeper of the holy grail and Michael has been called the guardian of the grail, Ratziel is said to know the inmost secret mystery of the Holy grail, for Ratziel is the great angel of the Bride Sophia in the Gnostic Tradition.
Sophia, or the Shekinah Consort of the Messiah, is the Grail; in that Pistis (Wisdom) Sophia represents all souls, then our souls are as the holy cup into which Christ pours the supernal light – the soul transformed or transfigured by that holy light, then, is the Holy Grail. As much as a light-bearer, the Christian apostle is a grail-bearer. The baptism of water and fire, purification and sanctification (or consecration), opens the way for our reception of the light from the divine, our reception of the Holy Spirit – baptism by the Spirit.
The following selection describing the work of the archangels in from the Pistis Sophia (Book 2), translated by GRS Mead.
The First Mystery [Living Yeshua] again continued and said: “It came to pass, therefore, that the power which had come out of the height, that is I, in that my Father sent me to save Pistis Sophia out of the chaos, that I, therefore, and also the power which did go from me, and the soul which I had received from Sabaoth, the Good,–they drew towards one another and become a single light-stream, which shone very exceedingly. I called down Gabriel and Michael out of the aeons, at the command of my Father, the First Mystery which looketh within, and I gave unto them the light-stream and let them go down into the chaos to help Pistis Sophia and to take the light-powers, which the emanations of self-willed had taken from her, from them and give them to Pistis Sophia.”
“And straightway, when they had brought down the light-stream into the chaos, it shone most exceedingly in the whole of the chaos, and spread itself over all their regions. And when the emanations of self-willed had seen the great light of that stream, they were terror-stricken one with the other. And that stream drew forth out of them all the light-powers which they had taken from Pistis Sophia, and the emanations of self-willed could not dare to lay hold of that light-stream in the dark chaos; nor could they lay hold of it with the art of self-willed, who ruleth over the emanations.”
“And Gabriel and Michael led the light-stream over the body of the matter of Pistis Sophia and poured into her all the light-powers which they had taken from her. And the body of her matter became shining throughout, and all the powers also in her, whose light they had taken away, took light and ceased to lack their light, for they got their light which had been taken from them, because the light was given them through me. And Michael and Gabriel, who ministered and had brought the light-stream into the chaos, will give them the mysteries of the Light; it is they to whom the light-stream was entrusted, which I have given unto them and brought into the chaos.”
We can see the primal place of Michael and Gabriel in relationship to the being of Wisdom, Pistis Sophia. It is said that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the physical incarnation of Pistis Sophia. The Archangel Gabriel came to Mary and brought the Holy Spirit to fill her with the Son of God. Michael was there at the crucifixion and became the protector of the blood relics and the Mystery of Golgotha. Throughout and beyond the life and mission of Jesus Christ the influence of the heavenly archangels is found as a profound support and help.
Meteorites as Michael’s Flaming Sword/Spear
In Celtic mythology, stones fall from the sky frequently. These stones are often seen as the Holy Grail or they contain a sword that can only be pulled out by the new king. The most famous example of the first type of stone that fell from the sky is the “lapsit exillis” from Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival (1215). This is the jewel that comes from the stars, or was struck from the crown of Lucifer. In Parzival the hermit Trevrizent says that only the chosen can obtain the grail and the name of the chosen seeker can be found written on the stone. In the Book of Revelation of Saint John (2:17) it says: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
Sometimes the alchemical philosopher’s stone is said to have fallen from the sky or seen as a cube. In Hebrew Kabbalistic texts the Sephira Yesod is sometimes referred to as a cubic stone. Alchemists begin looking for the Stone of the Wise by finding the prima materia and transform it into the lapis philosophorum. Alchemists try to find the single root substance from which the entire universe is made. The prima materia is, in fact, imagination. The world is composed of living imaginations like the living nature of the grail.
Some philosophical alchemists believe that the holy stone is a metaphor for the process of enlightenment. When we obtain the Philosopher’s Stone, we achieve the tools of spiritual enlightenment and find what was lost when we fell from our original state of being. We regain who and what we truly are. Sometimes this state is symbolized by a stone, or crystal, pure water, blood, fire, or spiritual light. Restore the emerald to its crown and you restore humankind’s ability to see wisdom, love and beauty. Our fall from paradise was a darkening of our inherent imagination and the stone reopens our capacity for living imagination – living thoughts.
Imagination is omnipresent thought – a realm of imagistic mental images that is beyond time and space. Oscar Wilde describes it in these words: “…the imagination is itself the world of light. The world is made by it, and yet the world cannot understand it. That is because the imagination is a manifestation of love, and it is love and the capacity for it that distinguishes one human being from another.”
The prima materia is the same thing as the philosopher’s stone, but through the results of the expulsion from paradise we have lost the ability to see the innate substance of that “stone.” Polish the stone and restore it to its original, pristine condition and miraculously you can see the thoughts and imaginations that hold the world together.
The philosopher’s stone is the ultimate ground of being and is sometimes called a diamond because it is the indestructible primal substance. In Tibetan Buddhism it is referred to as the diamond thunderbolt (dorge), the Greeks called it the hardest substance known called adamant. In the Judeo-Christian Bible, it is referred to as the ‘stone the builders rejected’ that ‘has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’
Understanding meteorites was very important to the ancients as they tried to meld animism into their ideas about the divine. The 2nd century Christian historian Clement of Alexandria is said to have concluded about meteorites that “the worship of such stones was the first, and earliest idolatry in the world.”
Edward King’s book, Remarks Concerning Stones said to have Fallen from the Clouds, points out that many sacred stones worshipped by the ancients were conical, or pyramidal in shape:
“…the learned Greaves leads us to conclude the famous image of Diana at Ephesus to have been nothing but a conical, or pyramidal stone, that fell from the clouds. For he tells us, on unquestionable authorities, that many others of the images of heathen deities were merely such.”
“…Herodian expressly declares that the Phoenicians had…a certain great stone, circular below, and ending with a sharpness above, in the figure of a cone, of black color. And they report it to have fallen from heaven, and to be the image of the sun.”
Tacitus says, that at Cyprus, the image of Venus was not of human shape; but a figure rising continually round, from a larger bottom to a small top, in conical fashion. And it is to be remarked, that Maximus Tyrius says the stone was pyramidal. And in Corinth, we are told by Pausanias, that the images both of Jupiter Melichius, and of Diana, were made with little or no art; the former being represented by a pyramid, the latter by a column.
Many believe that the image of Aphrodite (Venus) in the sanctuary at Paphos was simply a white cone or pyramid; that the emblem of Astarte at Byblus was a cone; and that the image of Artemis (Diana) at Perga in Pamphylia was also a cone. The images of the sun god, Heliogabalus, at Emesa in Syria was a cone of black stone with small knobs on it, as it appears on coins of Emesa. The sacred stone of Cybele, brought from Pessinus to Rome during the second Punic war, was a small black rugged stone.
Conical stones, considered sacred, have been found at Golgi in Cyprus, in the Phoenician temples at Malta, and in the shrine of the Mistress of Torquoise in Sinai. Similarly, Book V of Herodian’s Histories describes the ‘Black Stone of Elagabalus’, a Phoenician temple dedicated to the sun god: “In this shrine there is no statue sculpted by the hand of man…but there was an enormous stone, rounded at the base and coming to a point on the top, conical in shape and black…worshipped as though it were sent from heaven.”
While in most cases these sacred stones have disappeared, we have depictions of some of them recorded on ancient coins that show that the stones were the shape of typical meteorites. This conical or pyramid shape is similar to another sacred stone revered by the ancient Egyptians: the black, cone-shaped ‘Ben-Ben’ stone kept in the temple of Ra at Heliopolis. The shape of this stone is thought to have acted as the model for the capstones found on many of Egypt’s pyramids and obelisks.
Sacred Places Dedicated to Archangel Michael
Meteorites were worshiped in the past and believed to be divine. Thus, the place where a meteorite landed was also considered holy and often a shrine or church was built in honor of the stone that fell from the sky. The Christian church believed in the divine nature of meteorites and attributed them to the Archangel Michael and often built a church dedicated to him in the place of the meteorite impact.
One such church was Mont-Saint-Michel in France. In 966, the Duke of Normandy, Richard I, established a community of Benedictine monks there. They followed the Order of Saint Benedict, staying on the Mount for over eight hundred years.
By the year 1000, the fame of Mont-Saint-Michel was continuing to grow. The original sanctuary was expanded by several new buildings in order to welcome the increasing number of pilgrims. Following the creation of the Duchy of Normandy in 911, Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey became a location of strategic importance.
The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano, sometimes called simply Monte Gargano, is a Catholic sanctuary on Mount Gargano, Italy, part of the commune of Monte Sant’Angelo, in the province of Foggia, northern Apulia. It is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael and has been an important pilgrimage site since the early Middle Ages. The earliest account of the foundation of the Sanctuary is a composite Latin hagiographical text known as Liber de apparitione Sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano.
According to the legend, around the year 490 the Archangel Michael appeared several times to the Bishop of Sipontum near a cave in the mountains, instructing that the cave be dedicated to Christian worship and promising protection of the nearby town of Sipontum from pagan invaders. These apparitions are also the first appearances of Saint Michael in western Europe.
It is said, the first apparition manifested in 490 when a rich lord’s prized bull wondered off and was later discovered kneeling at the mouth of the old Mithraeum. Unable to get the beast to leave, the man shot an arrow at it, but instead of striking the bull the shaft turned around and wounded him. Mystified by the event, the injured man went to consult San Lorenzo, who instructed the citizens to fast and pray for three days.
At the end of the third day, the Archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop and said: “I am Michael the Archangel and am always in the presence of God. I chose the cave that is sacred to me. There will be no more shedding of bull’s blood. Where the rocks open widely, the sins of men may be pardoned. What is asked here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go up to the mountain cave and dedicate it to the Christian God.” Confused and doubting his faculties, San Lorenzo dismissed the vision.
Two years later, Siponto came under attack by a barbarian host. At the brink of capitulation, St. Michael (with flaming sword in hand) again visited the Bishop, promising to break the siege and save the city if the Sipontini would take the fight to the invaders. Heartened by the news, the defenders abandoned the safety of their walls and charged their foe on the field of battle. A violent storm of hail and lightning miraculously whipped up in support and the enemy were completely routed.
Revealing himself for a third time, the Archangel Michael commanded San Lorenzo to go into the cave. Upon entering, the Bishop discovered an altar with a scarlet cloth, a cross, and a footprint in the stone, said to be St. Michael’s.
Monte Sant’Angelo was a popular pilgrimage site on the way the way to Jerusalem; pilgrims travelled from as far as the British Isles to visit the “Celestial Basilica.” Among the pilgrims who visited the Saint Michael Archangel Sanctuary were many popes, emperors, kings, queens, and princes. Francis of Assisi visited the Sanctuary, but, feeling unworthy to enter the grotto, stopped in prayer and meditation at the entrance, kissed a stone, and carved on it the sign of the cross in the form.
Sacra di San Michele (Turin, Italy)
Roman Legions used Mount Pirchiriano as a base and later the Lombards occupied the strategic outpost. In the 10th century, Saint Giovanni Vincenzo, a hermit, was commanded by Saint Michael to build a shrine. Located on Mount Pirchiriano, the task before the Saint was practically impossible. By a miracle, however, all of the necessary building materials appeared precisely where the shrine stands today. Not surprisingly, the site quickly attracted pilgrims throughout Italy and beyond.