Obviously, if visits or local people wished to attend Mass, a chapel had to be built that could accommodate greater numbers than were in the eremitical community. The site, certainly, was still an out-of-the-way place of prayer and peacefulness, but no longer a place of near-absolute solitude.
The hermitage was consecrated in 1214 and abandoned in 1750. After that day, it was still a place of pilgrimage and, until a few decades ago, was the focus of a religious procession on 8th September annually. People also visited the site at other times to collect the fallen water drops from the Grotta della Goccia ("the Cave of the Drop"), as mentioned above.
The hermitage became part of the Order of Hermits of St Augustine in Tuscany that was formed by the Little Union of 1244, and thereby became part of the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256. In its later history, the Augustinian name attributed to this site was S. Maria di Lupocavo.
In the Order of Hermits of St Augustine in Tuscany, it had been part of their Pisa-Lucca province. There was another province centred on Siena that included hermitages such as Lecceto, Rosia, S. Leonardo al Lago and Montespecchio.
There is a tradition that St Augustine of Hippo visited a hermitage on this Rupe Cava (or Lupo Cavo) site. With the tradition that Augustine had on Mount Pisano visited the site of S. Giogio della Spelonca, it was not much of a further stretch of the imagination to expect that he also visited Lupo Cave nearby, especially if he stayed for two years at Spelonca (which, in fact, he did not).
You can reach the hermitage by two different roads. The first one is a path, which begins in the town centre of Ripafratta in Via Silvestro Lega. The second one goes through the town of Molina di Quosa (Via Panoramica); this road is longer but less steep, and you can reach the starting point by car. Starting from the waypoint, follow the CAI path #10, the walk takes about fifteen minutes. During the wet season it is advisable to wear hiking boots or gumboots because the pathway is quite muddy.
Warning: The hermitage buildings are in very bad conditions, and it is very dangerous to enter them.
Photos (at right)
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