The attractive Monastery of Santa Caterina del Sasso stands out along the Lombardy shore of Lake Maggiore. A hermitage in the territory of Leggiuno, it stands on a cliff above the lake. The Monastery is accessible from the coast by a stairway of 80 steps, or from the arrival yard above the Hermitage. It is one of the most beautiful and fascinating of the historic places on Lake Maggiore. A visit is heartily suggested, if only for the reward of the splendid views it offers.
The Monastery of Santa Caterina del Sasso was founded between the 13th and 14th centuries. The origin of the sacred place is attributed to Alberto Besozzi, a merchant who prayed to St Catherine for assistance during a violent storm. Having saved himself thanks to a jut in the rock face on the Verbano, he built a little church as a sign of thanksgiving. During the centuries, several monastic orders have succeeded one another: the Augustinians, the Ambrosian Hermits and the Carmelites. Today, the monastery is governed by the Benedictine Oblates.
The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso consists of three connected buildings: the southern monastery, the small monastery and the church. The visitor to the Monastery enters a long portico delimited by round arches. In the chapter house, expert restorers have brought splendid frescoes to light for the admiration of visitors. Going forward, pay a visit to the small monastery, positioned opposite the courtyard of the press and embellished with an arcade of pointed arches. The refectory is on the ground floor and the friars’ cells are on the first floor. The final internal courtyard leads to the little church next to its 14th century bell tower. Inside, the altar is also surrounded by finely executed frescoes of great value.
In addition to its considerable religious and artistic value, the Monastery of Santa Caterina del Sasso merits a visit for the vast panorama it offers of most of Lake Maggiore and for the particular atmosphere that lends peace and serenity to each breath.