ARCHEOLOGY | The Sant’Angelo Cave, the tomb infested by the devil

Entrance to the Prince’s Tomb

The Sant’Angelo Cave is the largest early historic tholos tomb in Sicily. In 1931 Paolo Orsi discovered a group of large tholos tombs located on the slopes of the hill of Sant’Angelo Muxaro, in the valley of Platani, in the Province of Agrigento. The rich grave goods set the site, from the beginning, as one of the most important and worthy of attention in early historic Sicily. Among them, the largest is the so-called “Tomba del Principe” or Grotta Sant’Angelo. The second name comes from the patron saint who would have chosen the cave for his hermitage after having freed it from the devil. According to tradition, in fact, the cave was abandoned because of the strong dampness of the walls and because it was infested by many evil spirits. One day, from the sea came a holy man, Angelo, who, invoking an earthquake from God, drove out the spirits and settled there.

The structure of St. Angelo Cave

The innermost room of Sant’Angelo Cave

Sant’Angelo Cave consists of two large, almost circular and communicating rooms. The largest has a diameter of 8.8 meters and a height of 3.5 meters and is equipped with a quay that runs all around the walls. The inner chamber, however, although smaller in size, has a dome shaped like a spherical cap. The entrance, not in axis with the previous one, leads into a space, in the center of which there is a funeral bed carved into the rock. Inside the tomb there is a series of petroglyphs that Paolo Orsi mistakenly attributes to the Byzantine period. In reality, they are of Sikan origin and testify that the entire group of tombs is to be attributed to the Sikan world.

The interpretation

This tomb was called by Paolo Orsi “Tomb of the Prince” because it was supposed to be the “mausoleum of the prince of the anonymous Sicilian town of Muxaro”. According to the scholar, the inner cell was reserved for the prince, his wife and relatives, while in the outer one, on the quay that goes around the walls, “were originally arranged to banquet the employees and servants of the prince’s house.”

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