Friday, 17 August 2012

Ulysses, Caligula and the Madonna of the Rock

Wednesday was Ferragosto - the biggest festival in the Italian calendar.  Everyone was on holiday and sharing a gigantic meal in the evening.  Ferragosto is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, but before Christianity it was dedicated to Diana, goddess, huntress, and long before that to other goddesses of fertility and plenty.  It's the middle of summer here, the trees loaded with fruit, and the heat beating off the walls and the scorched ground like a furnace.
Ferragosto was also my birthday, so we lazed around, went for a dip in the murky Mediterranean in late afternoon, and then for dinner in our village Osteria.

The sea was murky because we're in the grip of rampant anti-cyclones circling up from Africa, laden with dust and desert heat.  First, Ulysses with temperatures up to 38 degrees, now Caligula who is not much cooler, and tomorrow we get the Colossus of the Desert with warnings of temps in excess of 40 degrees over most of Europe.  Bad news for city dwellers and anyone at risk of wildfires.
Last night, as we sat on the terrace with a friend savouring the late evening breeze off the sea, we heard music and chanting from the direction of the village. It appeared to be coming along the road that passes above our house.  We walked up the path, just in time to find a candle-lit procession, headed by priests and our local orchestra, the Capezzano Philarmonic.  A wood and plaster image of Jesus was mounted on the back of a pick-up truck and followed by a long file of women and children carrying candles.  Difficult to get any kind of photograph because of the darkness and the glaring lights that illuminated the icon.

We followed it to the bend in the road near our house (which we privately call 'Holy Corner') where there is a big shrine carved into the rock with a statue of the Virgin Mary and an inscription that translates 'to a world guilty and sad, oh immaculate Queen, give forgiveness and peace'.

She is the Madonna of the Rock.  The carved image of her son stopped in front of the shrine and he was turned to face it. Prayers were chanted and sung.  It was all very moving and very pagan in the dark with only the flickering candles and the murmuring voices of the women around me.
Then the procession turned and walked back to the village church where the bells were rung.  Almost midnight by now.  But a beautiful end to the day.


Thanks to everyone who contributed advice on titles and covers.  We now have a cover and a title that we're very pleased with!  All will be revealed later.


2 comments:

  1. Sounds like you will be sweltering.

    Almost as hot as it gets down this way!

    I can't wait 'til you reveal all!

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