The Campania Frassati Trail
Covering one thousand metres in height, in an area of Salerno (Vallo di Diano) that once formed part of ancient Lucania, the Sala Consilina route is the first in Italy to be dedicated to the blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
As such, the beginning of this route marks the beginning of the initiative – launched by the Salerno Division of the Club Alpino Italiano – to dedicate a trail to the blessed young Turin native in every region of Italy. It is therefore fitting that the idea was “baptised” at an ancient baptismal font.
“Sentiero Frassati della Campania” begins at a height of 478 m, at the “Marcellianum”, a Paleochristian baptistery in “San Giovanni in Fonte”, the only one in the world to be directly situated on a spring. In pagan times, this site, with its super-clear spring, was dedicated to Leucothea (the white goddess). Subsequently, with the advent of Christianity, the structure – probably originally designed as a Nymphaeum – was converted into a baptistery (4th century). Its unique architectural quality of being at one with the water lends itself to the miracle, recorded by Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, advisor to Emperor Theodoric the Great (born between 485 and 490 and who died in 580), that took place on this site during the “dies sacratae noctis”, when catechumens gathered at Marcellianum to be baptised by immersion: “When, on the holy night, the priest began to recite the words of the baptism, the rising water did not take its normal course, but surged upwards: usually the water covered five steps, but at that moment it rose to cover another two” (English translation based on Italian translation by Luigi PICA). And so, as the Holy Spirit was invoked, the water in the “Marcellianum” baptismal font rose, indicating that the Holy Spirit had penetrated it, making it fertile and, like an enormous miraculous womb, capable of giving birth to new men, specifically Christians. The particular power of the baptismal rite at “Marcellianum” led Cassiodorus to exclaim: “Lucania has its own Jordan!”
Taking the dirt track in the direction of Sala and veering right near the municipal dump, you will come to the ruins of the monastery of Sant’Angelo in Fonti (14th century). The monastery’s remaining tower, standing tall amid sparse flora, serves as the perfect orientation point.
In the first half of the 14th century, the monastery – a fusion of Roman and Gothic styles – was home to a community of Cistercian monks of the order of St. Bernard, the patron saint of hikers. This site is particularly significant as it is home to a cave (560 m) that was once inhabited by early Christians, escaping relentless persecution. It was in this cave that the people of Sala – as in other areas of the South – first embraced the cult of St. Michael, which would grow over the years and emerge from the shadows with the construction of a shrine dedicated to the Archangel on the Balzata hill.
That is where the “Sentiero Frassati” leads (at a height of 986 m), with the journey taking approximately two and a half hours. This trail eschews the hairpin bends that have sprung up across the old pilgrimage route in recent decades in favour of a more disused route along the slope overlooking Padula, allowing visitors the experience of reaching the shrine across unspoilt earth.
From: San Giovanni in Fonte
To: Madonna di Sito Alto – Sala Consilina
Distance: 14,0 Km