The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso is a paradise on earth, discovered by a man who had been through hell.
According to legend, in the 12th century Alberto Besozzi, a rich usurer and merchant originally from Milan, was caught in a terrible storm while he was boating on Lake Maggiore on business. In those dramatic moments, feeling lost, he invoked the aid of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, to whom he was devoted. He was saved by grace.
In Dante’s world, if Besozzi had died in that moment he would most likely have spent eternity like all usurers, running under a rain of fire. Instead, following his miraculous salvation, he decided to change his life in order to go to Heaven. He became a hermit in this corner of the earth that truly is like a taste of paradise.
Next to the cave in which he lived he built a small chapel, where he was later buried. The chapel is currently incorporated in the beautiful structures built between the 13th and 17th centuries by local residents and various religious communities – Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites and Benedictines, among others.
Then, in 1640, another extraordinary event occurred: five giant boulders fell off from the cliff, breaking through the ceiling of the chapel where lay Besozzi’s body. They did not, however, destroy the tomb of the hermit, whom the Catholic people wanted beatified soon after his death.
This was considered to be another miracle, which some believe is at the origin of the ‘sasso’ (“rock”) in the name of this beautiful monastery overlooking the lake.
A place protected by grace and by beauty.