Weapons and Power


Archangel Michael is a Biblical warrior angel, a heavenly warrior chief. On the basis of the scriptures, his traditional iconographic attribute is an unsheathed sword (or lance), together with a shield. These warlike traits favoured the archangel’s adoption as patron saint by Byzantine, Lombard and Carolingian commanders and rulers. The invincible archangel became a symbol of victory and military power. For the Lombards, a warrior people, adoption of the cult of Michael was facilitated by their recognition in – and transferral to – him of the attributes and characteristics of the Germanic god Wodan (Odin), worshipped as the supreme god of war, psychopomp (guide of the souls of the dead) and protector of heroes and warriors. The foundation legend of the Gargano sanctuary reflects the strong link between the cult of Michael and the Lombard Benevento dynasty and (somewhat vaguely) commemorates the battle fought in about 650 between the Beneventans and Byzantines, won by the Lombard Duke Grimoald I (647-671). After that victory, Archangel Michael became the Lombards’ patron saint and the Gargano shrine began to be considered their "national" sanctuary.