The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola is a beautiful small church standing on the homonymous rock, in Tropea. The church and its rock, once an island, is one of the most iconic images of the Calabrian city.
The rock on which the church stands today was probably inhabited around the 7th century by Greek hermit monks. These, isolating themselves from the world, devoted themselves to a contemplative and ascetic life.
Built before the 9th century, the church belonged, at first, to the Basilian monks. In the 11th century, after the arrival of the Normans, it was passed on to the Benedictines, who still own it today.
As a parenthesis, Tropea, like all of Calabria, was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Byzantium and, therefore, under the Greek rite, until the arrival of the Normans, in the 11th century, who imposed the latinization of the population. Robert Guiscard, the Norman duke, made the transition from the Greek to the Latin rite around 1060.
Around the year 1066, the Church of Santa Maria dell’Isola and some surrounding territories were donated by the Normans to the Abbot of Montecassino, Desiderio, who later became Pope Victor III.
Over the centuries, due to the violent earthquakes from 1783 and 1905, the complex has undergone various restorations and renovations, little of the original structure of the sanctuary being preserved until today.
The staircase that runs to the top was built around 1810. The current facade of the church was built after the earthquake of 1905. The last restoration took place in 2010-2011.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Isola is located about 1.3 kilometers from Tropea train station, or 15-20 minutes on foot, and about 400 meters away from Piazza Cannone, the square located at the edge of the historical center of the town. For precise directions, use the map below.