Storm Over Sacred Valley
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As my sister and her husband and I looked out over Suppentonia Valley from Sanctuary of Maria Santissima ad Rupes in Castel Sant' Elia (near where Fred and I live), the sky darkened and rumbling thunder grew closer. Within that holy place, we’d just climbed the 144 steps originally carved into the tufa rock, begun by hermit Rodio and finished at the end of the eighteenth century, leading to the Sanctuary of Maria Santissima ad Rupes (a pilgrim destination) in which the image of Our Lady, a sixteenth century painting, is venerated. Other sets of stairs head down to the path known as “road of the saints”. That trail winds its way down to the valley floor and ends at the Basilica of Sant’Elia, a Romanesque church constructed in the eighth century by hermit cave dwellers, who embraced the Benedictine Rule and founded the Monastery of St. Elias. It is believed the basilica rose where the Emperor Nerone had erected a temple to Diana the Huntress and where before that Etruscans had built a shrine dedicated to Pico Marzio.
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