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San Colombano Hermitage of Rovereto, swallow’s nest suspended at 120 meters high on a cliff face

An evocative wonder above the Leno River. The hermitage enjoys a unique view. It’s a pearl set in the rock wall overlooking the lake behind San Colombano dam. Are you ready to dive into the history of the many hermits who spent their lives here?

t’s a few kilometers from the historic center of Rovereto, along the road to Vicenza. There’s parking along the state road or in a few places at the top of the hermitage access road. From there, you walk along a short path and a thousand-year-old stairway of 102 steps. The stairway is entirely dug into the rock and worn by weather and the steps of pilgrims over the centuries.

San Colombano Hermitage is built halfway up a cliff face on an overhang about 120 meters high and is protected by a natural roof of rock. It’s dedicated to a legendary Irish saint. As a young knight, Saint Colombano arrived at this point of the ravine and killed a dragon that caused the death of children who were baptized in the Leno River.

A bit of history…

The very first settlement was in the Cave of the Hermits, in an undefined era. The hermitage seems to have been inhabited starting in 753, the date engraved on the rock next to the current bell tower. The first very small church adjacent to the cave and under the natural rock roof is dated by scholars to around the 10th century. The hermitage would become the residence of the monks in until 1782 when Joseph II of Austria abolished the practice throughout the empire.

What will you find? The cave is embellished with evocative frescoes. In particular, the struggle between Saint Colombano and the dragon, an allegory of the struggle between good and evil. The representation of Paradise also deserves attention. The main altar of the church is decorated with a 15th-century altarpiece depicting a Madonna with saints.

You will also find numerous engravings with invocations and votive offerings dated between 1505 and 1782, silent witnesses of pilgrimages to the sanctuary.

Tips and Tricks

Do you have time to explore a little known corner of this territory?

From the starting point of the road to the hermitage, a beautiful panorama starts and runs along the Leno River basin. It’s an unmissable route, especially for the emerald color you will find mirrored in the waters of San Colombano Lake.

In 1996, Trento province restored the hermitage and made it open to visitors. Routine maintenance and opening to the public are now guaranteed by a highly efficient group of volunteers from the Friends of San Colombano Committee.