On the 29th of September, the Church commemorates the three archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. However, there are seven archangels in all, the others being Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel, and Remiel. Since only the first three are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, the latter four are not so much known or are not known at all by the general faithful. Since ancient times, there has been a sanctuary in honour of St Michael on Mount Gargano in the south of Italy, where saints used to visit, in order to worship the Prince of the heavenly hosts. Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina are two of the most renowned.
At St George’s Basilica, one of the altars on the left hand side of the church facing west is the altar of St Michael the Archangel. This is the only altarpiece in the basilica which is not a normal painting but a mosaic; it is a faithful copy of the original by Guido Reni and this is most probably the most familiar of pictures showing the Archangel. The statue of the saint that is also revered in the Basilica was sculpted in wood by Alessandro Farrugia (1838). A procession with the statue used to take place until 1954, when Bishop Giuseppe Pace reduced the number of processions in Victoria. A more modern painting of St Michael the Archangel by John Grima was commissioned by Archpriest Mgr Joseph Farrugia and stands in the Mgr Giuseppe Farrugia Hall at the back of the Basilica.
The image of Saint Michael can also be seen on top of Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, just at the end of the Via della Conciliazione in the Vatican quarter of the Eternal City. Pope Leo XIII promoted devotion to the Archangel and obliged the entire Church to recite the prayer of the saint at the end of Mass. Pope Francis has revived the tradition a couple of years ago.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.