Located on the summit of Mount Gelbison, 1706 metres above sea level, the shrine of the Virgin of the Sacred Mount of Novi Velia is a spiritual beacon that radiates its light, powerfully attracting the inhabitants of the mountains and valleys of Cilento. Since its origins, the Marian sanctuary has been an interweaving of the sacred and the pagan. Probably the shrine was a temple built by the Oenotrians, it was well known to the Saracens - as witnessed by the name Gelbison, which comes from the Arabic 'mount of the idol' - it was then transformed into a Christian shrine by the Italo-Greek Basilian monks and later enlarged by the Order of the Celestini.
Mount Gelbison is easily reached from Palinuro by car, passing through the villages that once belonged to the 'State of Novi Velia'. It would be ideal, for the more adventurous, to experience the walking along the old path that leads to the summit of Mount Gelbison. It would be a mystical experience because along a fascinating path that tortuously climbs among olive and chestnut trees. At the entrance gate, a small plaque reminds you that the surrounding area is sacred. From here the Way of the Cross begins and leads to the summit.
Along the way it is possible to see the St. Michael's Stele, a marble column of over four metres, surrounded by a well-kept and sweet-smelling rose garden, built from spoils found in the Eleatic Heraion, traces of which are still to be found in other parts of the sanctuary. The visitor then arrives at the Piazza della Croce, from where the enraptured eye sweeps over a range of hundreds of kilometres and is enraptured by the imposing luminous metal Cross, which at thirty metres dominates the entire lower Cilento region. The Cross is open to pilgrims; you can climb up to the second level to enjoy a breathtaking view.
Walking further up, you reach the square where the Mother Church stands, with its Baroque interior and simpler stone façade. The wooden statue of the Madonna is preserved in a alcove of the façade. This statue is a typical Byzantine icon, with an amber complexion, Greek eyes and an elongated face, with the Holy Child resting on her left arm. Also in the square is the Peperino stone fountain and the Church of Bartholomew with the crypt of St Nilus, where you can see a pretty stained-glass window depicting the Madonna appearing to the two saints, and the bell tower.
The square overlooks an extensive landscape, consisting of everything that the nature's geographical setting can offer to the human eye. From here you can see the so-called 'Ciampa di cavallo', a rock outcrop where tradition has it that one should throw a coin as a good omen. It is believed that this protruding limestone rock saved the life of a knight.
Don't miss to visit the Galleria dei Misteri, an underground passage connecting the Church of San Bartolomeo to the Church of the Madonna. The entrance is indicated by a round arch found during work on the construction of the crypt of San Nilo. The historical-artistic and spiritual itinerary allows visitors to visit, among other things, the rooms of the Celestine monks and the caves of the Basilian monks.
The Sanctuary welcomes visitors from the last Sunday in May until the second Sunday in October.