Cave Churches in Calabria

Everywhere you go in Italy, you are graced with incredible and intricately designed churches, cathedrals and Sanctuaries. You don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate the beautiful architecture and impressive works of art that they possess.

What’s even more impressive are the cave churches you can find throughout Calabria. They are unique and definitely worth a visit if you are nearby. Especially in the Spring and Summer months, these places allow you to enjoy the outdoors and see something truly exceptional.

Here’s a look at a few cave churches in Calabria that we think are pretty neat!

Image Credit: Ingo Kuebler

Sanctuary of Madonna della Grotta (Praia a Mare, Cosenza)

In Praia a Mare, located about 90 meters up the slopes of the mountain that rise above it are three natural caves which house the 16th century Sanctuary and Church of Madonna della Grotta, both of which are still in use today. It’s definitely worth the climb up the steep stairs that lead to the church. You’ll notice as you make your way up there are Stations of the Cross done in mosaic using small pebbles from the local beaches. Inside the caves, you can admire the chapel of La Madonna delle Neve with a valuable marble 16th century statue, an ancient burial tomb that was used until the early 900s and the most magnificent panorama of Praia, Isola di Dino and the Gulf of Policastro. Finally, there is a rectory and 18th-century bell tower which is seemly wedged into the rock.

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Church of Piedigrotta (Pizzo, Vibo Valentia)

This cave church is one of the more famous ones in Calabria, and it is without doubt an impressive site! According to a 17th-century legend, a group of sailors were caught in a storm just off of the coast of Pizzo. Fearing an imminent death, the captain gathered his crew and together they prayed to the Madonna, promising to build a church in her honor in exchange for safe landing. When they landed on shore unscathed, they kept their promise and built her an alter inside a nearby cave. The cave is carved entirely in tufa stone and over the years local artists and sculptors have added to the display. Light seeping into the cave from the overhead crevices and nearby ocean cast a dramatic, yet somewhat eery, glow on the statues. In order to get to the Chiesetta, you must head to Prangi Beach, which is about one kilometer from the old town.

Image Credit: Carmen Guarascio

Sanctuary of Monte Stella (Pazzano, Reggio Calabria)

Pazzano is a small village in Reggio Calabria. It is situated between Mount Stella and Mount Consolino overlooking the Stilaro Valley. In the mountains, lies an ancient mountain trail that leads you through the beautiful countryside to the Sanctuary of Monte Stella located in a grotto. This Sanctuary is still relatively unknown to tourists and so it is quite a treat to experience this peaceful cove without the big crowds. As you descend the stairway of about sixty steps carved into stone, you will be left awe-struck. Within this small refuge once used by monks to contemplate and pray, there are two medieval frescoes, a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary created in 1562 and a 17th century marble altar.