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avenues of the Sacred Wood of Monteluco di Spoleto with rays of sunlight filtering through the branches of the holm oak grove in spring or summer

Monteluco di Spoleto

The dense vegetation of the “sacred wood” covers Monteluco (830 m asl), the hill joined to the city of Spoleto by the majestic Ponte delle Torri.

“This sacred wood no one profanes”

Near Spoleto is a place immersed in nature, full of charm and history: the Sacred Wood of Monteluco.

The origin of the name testifies to the sacredness of the place since ancient times: “lucus” is in fact the term the Romans used to call a wood sacred to the gods, protected by strict laws such as the Lex Luci Spoletina, one of the oldest and most important Roman epigraphic testimonies related to “luci”. The two limestone cippi (late 3rd - early 2nd century B.C.) on which the Lex Luci is engraved were found far from Spoleto: one in 1876 in Castel Ritaldi, and the other in 1913, in Picciche di Trevi; the originals are in the National Archaeological Museum in Spoleto.

The law forbade anyone from profaning the forest, and only on the day when the offering of an annual sacrifice was held could its trees be cut down.

With the advent of Christianity, Monteluco became an ideal place of prayer, and the Sacred Wood continued to be protected by numerous laws.

The Statute of Spoleto of 1296, which probably incorporates older prescriptions, states, for example, that cutting down the forest was forbidden except with special permission. At the end of the 16th century, the citizens of Spoleto requested the City Council to carry out a reconnaissance three times a week to guard the forest and check for any damage caused by illegal cutting or grazing.

The people of Spoleto have continued to take care of this forest over the centuries, allowing it to remain almost unchanged to this day: in 1919, Monteluco was recognised as a place of significant interest, and in 1946 the entire mountain was granted a bond to protect its precious landscape.

Recently, the value of the Sacred Wood of Monteluco was reconfirmed by its identification as a Site of Community Interest according to EEC directives.

The Monteluco Hermitic Movement

Beginning in the 6th century, an important hermit movement arose at Monteluco, the origin of which is traced back to the arrival in 528 of the anchorite Saint Isaac of Syria.

Over the centuries, many hermits chose this remote place as a refuge for a life of contemplation and prayer. Even today, it is still possible to identify the places where these men lived, some of which have been transformed into abbeys and monasteries linked to important monastic orders, such as the hermitage of Saint Francis, built on the retreat site of Saint Isaac, where Saint Francis himself apparently stayed in 1218.

With the suppression of the monastic orders, many hermitages have become private and transformed into villas. The others can be encountered by reaching the top of the sacred forest by car along the SP 462 road, or along the trekking path called “la corta di Monteluco”.

Along the way, one encounters places rich in charm and history: at the foot of the hill is the church of San Pietro with its stupendous historiated façade, and the Fortilizio dei Mulini located close to the Ponte delle Torri (currently not accessible). From this point begins CAI path no. 3 “Giro dei Condotti”, which reaches the hermitage of San Leonardo with its adjoining church, and continues on to Le Cese and the abbey of San Pietro in Valle at Ferentillo. Further on, taking a small detour, it is also possible to admire the abbey of San Giuliano, built in 528 by Saint Isaac of Syria and which in the 6th century became a Benedictine monastery, suppressed in the 15th century.

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