I’ve read a couple of articles on the mysterious Sword of St. Michael — a straight line across Europe of churches and shrines dedicated to the archangel. I first heard about the sword from Gelsomino Del Guercio’s piece from May of last year, “7 Sanctuaries linked by a straight line: The legendary Sword of St. Michael.” Not only are the shrines, centered around monasteries, in a straight line, three of them are evenly spaced from one another. Del Guercio lists the shrines as follows, most of them in high places and many of them on islands:

  1. Skellig Michael, an island of the coast of Ireland, settled by Celtic monks.
  2. Saint Michael’s Mount, an island off the coast of Cornwall, England.
  3. Mont Saint Michel, an island off the coast of Normandy, France.
  4. Sacra di San Michele, an abbey built on top of Mount Pirchiriano, Italy.
  5. Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano, on top of another mountain in Italy.
  6. Monastery of the Taxiarchis, Symi Island, Greece.
  7. Stella Maris Monastery, Mount Carmel, Israel.

Del Guercio gives on key clue that may help explain the direct line: “The Sacred Line also is perfectly aligned with the sunset on the day of the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer Solstice.”  Del Guercio thinks this makes the coincidence more remarkable, but I think this may be the key fact that helps us to unpack the significance of the sword — rightly named as a sword to signal Christendom’s spiritual combat against paganism.

What is the significance of the summer solstice? Many pagan shrines, most famously Stonehenge, were built to highlight the movement of the sun and moon, and were designed to harness the sun on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. Were the shrines along the sword of St. Michael, then, originally pagan sites of worship? In fact, the answer is yes. The island in Cornwall was dedicated to Celtic god Lugh (who was also a fighter) and Mont. St. Michel was dedicated to Mithras (a cult of Roman soldiers) and named Tomb Mount. The Greek monastery was built over the site of a temple to Apollo, who was connected to the sun and therefore to the solstice. It seems he also had sanctuaries along the sword of St. Michael. Pagans would have sought out distinctive “high places” that followed the track of the sun on its peak day.

Read more at Catholic Exchange.