Prayer and poetry in Gaeta’s Turk’s Cave
The Turk’s Cave (Grotta del Turco) in Gaeta, Lazio, is the deepest part of a stone wound called Montagna Spaccata (Broken Mountain), on the West side of Monte Orlando. According to legend, the mountain cracked open at the moment of Jesus’s death, at the same time as the veil in the Temple of Jerusalem was torn in two.
One Turkish sailor refused to believe the legend. To vanquish his disbelief, he was granted a special miracle: touching the rock he felt it soften like wax, and was able to leave the impression of his hand on it. The Cave was named after him to commemorate the episode.
Saint Filippo Neri used to come here to pray in solitude. According to his biographer, Alberto Venturoli, “he spent intense hours in contemplation and joy, inside the cave in one of those rocks, between the sky and the sea.”
“Pippo Buono” – as the holy man was nicknamed – also often stopped at the small church which had been built on a spur a century earlier… but which had fallen from above and gotten stuck between the narrow walls of the crack. It is now a small Sanctuary dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
The great poet Eugenio Montale, in his “Elegy of Pico Farnese”, mentions the
spacco del masso / miracolato che porta / le preci in basso, referencing the miraculous slit in the mountain rock that carried the sound of prayers and litanies down to the valley.
Perhaps the true miracle is this place of beauty, prayer, and poetry.