St. Michael’s sword on the map

Question

What is the Sword of St. Michael and how does it relate to churches across Europe and the Middle East? — Denmark

Answer

This relates to a legend about the Archangel Michael that seems to have caught popular imagination in the last few years — especially with the Star Wars movie franchise.

The Sword of St. Michael relates to the fact that a straight line can be drawn on a map of the Earth from Ireland to Israel connecting seven shrines/monasteries dedicated to the prince of the angels. The legend says that this line on the map indicates the path of Lucifer’s fall from heaven when Michael drove him into hell. This line is called the “Sword of St. Michael” or the “Sacred Line of St. Michael.”

The legend of this sword is loosely based on a story found in the Book of Enoch, written about a century or two before Christ. It was never included in the accepted books of the Bible. However, Enoch (listed as one of Adam’s sons) did work his way into several early Christian writings, including the Letter of Jude (1:14). The story in Enoch associates the archangel Michael with seven mountains, though they are not necessarily these sites. (Instead, the seven mountains seem to refer to seven fallen angels.)

The seven sites of St. Michael’s sword or sacred line’s path are:

  • Skellig Michael (also Great Skellig), an island off the coast of Ireland, settled by Celtic monks. (It was also used for filming two Star Wars movies and for aerial footage for a third
  • St. Michael’s Mount, an island off the coast of Cornwall in England
  • Mont St. Michel, off the coast of Normandy, France
  • Sacra di San Michele, an abbey built on top of Mount Pirchiriano, Italy
  • Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano, another mountain in Italy
  • Monastery of the Taxiarchis, Symi Island, Greece
  • Stella Maris Monastery, Mount Carmel, Israel. (However, there is no direct connection of this monastery to St. Michael, except for a folk legend about Michael and Elijah, the prophet. It was said that Elijah, who fought the priests of Baal on that site, was aided by St. Michael, who gave him thunder.)

It’s also interesting to note that a group in Canada started its own Sword of St. Michael sites for Canadian tourists in late 2020 (the Marian Devotion Movement). Their sites include:

  • the Sanctuary of St. Anne de Beaupré
  • Notre Dame de Québec Basilica in Quebec City 
  • Notre Dame du Cap in Trois Rivières 
  • St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal
  • Blessed Sacrament Parish in Ottawa 
  • St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto
  • the Michaelite House Retreat Center in London (Ontario)

Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass. She holds a master’s degree in theological studies from St. Norbert College in De Pere.

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