Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is a Chapel in Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, built in 962 on a volcanic formation 85 meters (279 ft) high. The chapel is reached by 268 steps carved into the rock. It was built to celebrate the return from the pilgrimage of Saint James. In 1429, the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, was said to have come to the site to pray. The basalt needle of Le Puy has been regarded as sacred probably since it was first spotted by humans. Three great stones incorporated into St. Michael’s Chapel are thought to be the remains of a prehistoric dolmen built at the top. Later, the Romans worshipped Mercury – the swift messenger god with winged shoes – at the site. When the area was Christianized, the rock was consecrated to St. Michael the Archangel, who is the patron of many high places throughout Europe. The Chapel of St. Michael was built by Bishop Godescalc and the Deacon Trianus in 962. It was a simple shrine built on a central plan: a square sanctuary a tiny apsidal on each side. This original sanctuary and two of the apsidal still survive today. In the 12th century, the chapel was significantly enlarged by adding a short nave west of the original sanctuary, an elliptical ambulatory, two side chapels, a narthex with an upper gallery, a carved portal, and a bell tower. The 10th-century frescoes were repainted in the original style and more were added. The bell tower fell down in 1275 and was not reconstructed until the 19th century. Removal of the plaster in the chapel in about 1850 revealed the magnificent 10th and 12th-century frescoes. A century later, in 1955, archaeologists discovered a treasure trove of sacred objects in the altar, which are now displayed behind an iron grate in the wall.
- Renovation takes historic St. Peter’s Chapel back in time (islandpacket.com)