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Gaeta’s “Montagna Spaccata” or split mountain, south of Rome, is a popular tourist attraction

Wednesday, 02 March 2022 10:10

The Montagna Spaccata split mountain is a popular tourist attraction close to Gaeta. This steep divided rocky promontory near Gaeta, a town on the coast closer to Naples than to Rome, attracts many visitors who come to admire the deep clefts in the huge rock, and is certainly one of the most impressive sights in the area. Visitors are captured by the magic of the promontory’s deep crevices and there are many other points of interest along the route they take to get there.  

A saint once lived inside the mountain

One of these is the Sanctuary of the SS. Trinità built in the 11th century on the top of the promontory and famous as numerous popes, including Pope Pius IX, have come to pray here. Legend has it that Saint Philip Neri lived inside the Split Mountain where there is a stone bed which to this day is known as Saint Philip Neri’s bed.

Majolica tiles depicting the Way of the Cross

On the walls of the rock you can admire majolica panels depicting the Way of the Cross that contain verses by Metastasio and have been partially restored. They date back to 1849 and are attributed to Saint Bernardino of Siena.

The imprint of a hand on the rock face

Your chosen route should also include a visit to the evocative Grotta del Turco cave which is linked to an ancient religious tradition that holds that it came to light at the time of Christ's death.  On the right along the stairway leading down into the bowels of the mountain you can see an inscription in Latin and above it, a disturbing imprint of a hand on the rock which is said to have belonged to a Turkish sailor. 

Saracen pirates used to plunder in this area

The sailor was not a Christian and was sceptical of the sacred origin of the cracks in the mountain. According to legend, when as he placed his hand boldly on the rock face his fingers instantly liquefied like wax, thus leaving a clear imprint of his hand and the five fingers that can still be seen today. Given the historical and geographical context, it cannot be excluded that in the Middle Ages the cave was used by Saracen pirates as a refuge as they scoured the area for places to plunder.

The saint’s stone bed

At the end of the path we find the famous stone bed where Saint Philip Neri used to retire to meditate. In 1434 an earthquake caused a large boulder to fall, getting stuck further down the cleft in the mountain. A little chapel was erected on the boulder and from here you can enjoy splendid views of the sea.

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