The Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe Chapel is located in the French commune of Aiguilhe, north of the village of Le Puy-en-Velay. It stands on top of an 82-meter volcanic hill and is one of the most important historic Romanesque Catholic chapels. Dedicated to San Michele, this chapel is believed to have come about in 950 by one of the first pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The construction was initiated by Bishop Gotescalco, who laid the first stone in 962.
The volcanic core is 269 feet high, and the tiny pad at the top is just 187 feet in diameter. It can be reached via 268 stone steps that wind up the side
Aiguilhe means “needle”, and like many lofty Christian sacred spaces, the chapel atop it is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, likely because of his propensity to appear on mountain tops and other high places. The architecture of the chapel reflects the influence of Spain, with homages to the grand mosque of Cordoba in the stone work.
In the twelfth century, the area welcomed a significant number of pilgrims and the chapel was enlarged using all the space available at the top of the rock. Sometime afterwards, magnificent frescoes of the 10th and 12th centuries were found during a renovation that led to the removal of the internal plaster. They were restored and brought back to their original state. In 1955, archaeologists discovered a real treasure – a series of sacred objects that today are exhibited and well-guarded by an iron fence.