September 11, 2021

The Cave of Saint Elias the Cave-Dweller in Calabria

Saint Elias the Cave-Dweller (Sept. 11) lived with the hermit Cosma and his disciple Vitalio in a cave around the year 904. There he attracted a large following, so he decided to move to a larger cave where he could establish a monastery. He died in this place at ninety-six years old, after having lived for seventy-one years as a hermit. 960 is conventionally thought of as the year of his death, since the monastery founded by Elias had the title of “imperial monastery”, which was assigned by the Roman Emperor in Constantinople.

In the territory surrounding MelicuccĂ , whose name derives from the settlement founded by the inhabitants of the area among the large woods of Bagolari (in Greek "melikokkos"), in the heart of the Piana di Gioia Tauro, stands the ancient complex of hermit caves that hosted the ascetic path of Saint Elias in the early Middle Ages. The site represents some of the most important archaeological evidence from Byzantine Greek times in Southern Italy. Dating back to the 10th century, it preserves the remains of the monastery and of the annexed factories (cellar, mill, millstones, necropolis). In its heyday, the structure hosted over one hundred and fifty monks.

The largest cave, known as the “divine and famous cave” is today the only one left intact after devastating earthquakes. Over four metres high and eighteen deep, it houses the miraculous spring called “water from the garden of Saint Elias”, a sort of natural stoup in stone, which collects the water that drips inside the cave, and has been the source of several miracles. When Elias died, he was buried in the sepulchre that he himself had dug into the cave with his own hands. There, his body remained until August 2nd, 1747, when his bones were discovered. On that occasion, Antonio Germanò, a young man from MelicuccĂ  who was seriously ill, was healed instantly at the mere sight of the bones of Saint Elias.