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Posts Tagged ‘medieval city’

FAMOUS FOR FLAGELLATION!!!

Tourists flock to Italy for many different reasons;  To Florence to see David, to Rome for the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and more. They travel to Venice for romance of the canals, Naples for the Isle of Capri, and to Milan for the fashion.  And of course there is much more, I could go on and on, for Italy is a treasure trove of medieval history, religious fervor and festivals, mountains, miles of beautiful coastline and fabulous food.

And then there’s Guardia Sanframondi!  Not your every day tourist destination.  However, THOUSANDS of tourists, visitors, and the locals from all over the region and other parts of Italy really do descend upon Guardia once every 7 years!  2017 is one of those years.  

Guardia Sanframondi celebrates a centuries-old religious rite. The following information comes from Wikipedia:  

Guardia hosts a riti settennali di penitenza or penitential rite every seven years. The rite honors the discovery of a Madonna and Child statue found in a field hundreds of years ago. The rite consists of a series of processions the week following the Assumption. Until recently, the rite was only known locally, but as residents moved elsewhere in Italy and abroad, word of the rite has spread. It has become something of a homecoming event. There are four components of the rite:

THE MYSTERIES:  The four quarters of town each form committees to organize a parade of “mysteries” (religious scenes), with volunteers in period costumes from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Lives of Saints. The neighboring towns of San Lorenzo Maggiore and San Lupo join with the committees to stage a few of the mysteries. In 2003 there were about one hundred mysteries in all. During the week each quarter of town has a separate procession through its own neighborhood. On Sunday all the quarters form a grand procession. The participants hold a pose depicting a particular moment of the mystery as they walk through town—they do not act out events. The committees informally compete with each other to put on the finest mysteries.     

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The “Mystery” of Saint Lawrence

CHOIRS:  Each quarter also forms a choir that joins the processions. Traditionally the choirs were formed of unmarried girls, but recently married women, and occasionally men, have joined in. The women wear white clothing, a symbolic crowns of thorns, and braided cords around their shoulders.

PENITENTS:  During the neighborhood processions, several flagellanti (“flagellants”) join in. They gently strike their backs with a metal scourge. On Sunday, the procession is joined by several hundred battenti (“beaters”) who strike their chests with a spugna (literally “sponge,” it is really a disk of cork holding dozens of pins). Designated helpers pour white wine on the sponges during the procession, supposedly to ward off infection. There are a few dozen flagellantiduring the Sunday procession, who also provide crowd control. The flagellanti and battenti are anonymous. They wear white hoods and are not even supposed to tell family members they are participating. Scourges and sponges are not carried openly or displayed in homes after the rite. The battenti are all men, although a few of the flagellanti are women.  Additionally there are a few dozen symbolic child flagellanti. They wear black robes and caps, and very gently swing a small scourge over their shoulders.   

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A Penitent Holding a Piece of Cork Studded with Needles

STATUE: The rite ends with the procession of the Madonna and Child statue through the town. After the mysteries start, the statue is removed from the church, at which point a cannon sounds to announce the event. The procession stops and everyone kneels for a minute. When the statue makes its way to the town center, the battenti walk in front of it on their knees. When the procession continues, the crowds follow the statue, or walk backwards in front of it. The procession ends as the statue is returned to the church. All-night vigils in the Church of the Ave Gratia Plena continue for several day

AND that’s why we are not going back in August!  No, not really but you can’t get a room anywhere for miles and miles around.  This is a BIG DEAL!  Did you read The DaVinci Code?  Remember Silas? The albino monk who not only flagellated himself, he also wore sackcloth and strapped a metal cilice (spiked garter) around his thigh.  

As I previously inferred, religious fervor is a real characteristic in these small villages in south central Italy.  Not only are most of the towns named after saints, each town has a patron saint.  The patron saint of Guardia Sanframondi is Saint Phillip Neri.

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St. Phillip Neri – Patron Saint of Guardia Sanframondi

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YOU CAN’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER

But you can judge the attitude and culture of a small Italian town by the number of Churches it has!!!  Yup, that’s what Raphael told us;  He described in very broad generalizations what various surrounding towns were known as and exactly how many Churches are there.  “We have 4” he proudly said, and then amended his remark with the fact that really only 1 or 2 were actually active and functioning,  He took us to the largest and most beautiful one located in the walled city: Santuario basilica dell’Assunta – Basilica of the Assumption.  It was beautiful, an understatement.  

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One Of The Many Side Altars in the Basilica. Photo by Gianfranco Vitolo from Sarno Italy

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Gloriously Detailed European Craftsmanship. Just Beautiful.  Photo by Gionfranco Vitolo from Sarno Italy

We wended our way through the sometimes narrow passages, passed areas where re-construction is being done in the Medieval city, the benefit of a recent grant of     of a large sum of money to repair the structures within the walled city. 

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Evidence of Repairs in the Walled city

There are extraordinary contrasts in the medieval town between the old and abandoned and the refurbished and renovated properties being bought up by Americans and other foreigners.  

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A Bit Eerie! The Door on the Left Might Have Been for the Donkey

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A Lovely Restoration

The other churches in Guardia are:  Chiesa di San Rocco – presently not an active parish.  I particularly  love the area of the medieval city where this church is located.  

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Photo Does Not Do Justice to the Edifice. La chiesa di San Rocco

We did not go into the chiesa di San Sebastiano but admired its spire every day!  Look at the influence in the architecture (from the East).  

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We Also Saw This Green/Yellow Tile Pattern in Other Surrounding Towns.  Photo by Gianfranco Vitolo

Raphael also took us into the chiesa dell’Annunicata, also beautiful  and also had the other magnificent bell tower in the medieval town.  The campaniles are outstanding against the landscape of the city.  As you approach Guardia Sanframondi  you can see these architectural beauties in the distance.  

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A Startling Standout in the Landscape.  Campanile dell’Annunicata

 

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EXPLORING THE MEDIEVAL CITY

Finally we were going to explore the medieval city and we are so lucky that a relative of Pasquale, Raphael will guide us.  He is a very learned gentleman who is a professor and someone who has an extensive knowledge of history and a keen interest in philosophy.

Raphael actually lived in the walled city when he was growing up.  His memories are vivid as he pointed out where he lived and where his grandmother lived.  He shared an immense amount of historic facts with us as we wended our way through alleys (which at one time were streets) and up and down steps.  The doorways were particularly interesting to me (as you will see from the photos).  

The history of the medieval city and its evolvement begins with the fact that much of South Central Italy was heavily invaded.  Throughout the early centuries, Etruscans, Romans, Greeks, Samnites, as well as a Gallic invasion.  Thus a walled city, often with a castle, became the prevalent manner of establishing and protecting a village.  Raphael told us that EVERYBODY  lived within the walls of the city.  They were a people married to the land, agriculture was the main industry.  He pointed out where interior houses were, those that did not have a lot of light and no view of the mountains.  Their homes were not houses in the sense we know – they were more like apartments contained in the stone structures which make up the medieval city.   He showed us where the farmers would come back from the fields with their donkeys and that the donkeys spent the night within the walls also.  Many of the ground floor doors were actually gates for the stables that housed everyone’s donkey.

As we traverse the stairs and steps, I feel late afternoon jet lag beginning to take hold.  But we’re not done yet.  We visited the beautiful Church of the Ascension and  then….   To be continued…..

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View of Guardia Sanframondi. You can clearly see the old town and parts of the new town built around it.

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Most Of The Medieval City Has Been Abandoned.

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These Doors Do Have Character

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Steps, Stairs and Arches of the Medieval City.

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Beautiful restoration. Doors to one of the newly-renovated and inhabited property in the Medieval city

 

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