THE PROCESSION IN HONOR OF ST. ANTHONY, IN ENNA (SICILY)

After more than two years, the processions come back to life in Enna!

Enna, in the center of Sicily, has been a religious city since time immemorial. In fact, it housed the main temples of Demeter and her daughter Kore.

When Cicero, the great Roman orator, came to Sicily to collect evidence against Verres, he had a feeling that the inhabitants of Enna were omnes sacerdotes (all priests).

Religion is imprinted in the DNA of the citizen of Enna. For more than two years, the city has been like in mourning due to the lack of processions. Now the time for mourning is over!

Yesterday, June 13, St. Anthony of Padua was taken in procession. He was a Franciscan friar. Actually, he was from Portugal, but he also lived in Padua. After the death of Saint Francis of Assisi, he became the Superior General of the Franciscans Friars. He died in a small town near Padua and is revered by all Catholics.

Carrying on their shoulders the litter with the statue of the saint, the brethren looked happy. Their beloved procession was back!

 Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (edizione italiana)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE GINESTRA (THE SPANISH BROOM) IN ENNA (SICILY)

This morning, walking around the lush hills that surround Lake Pergusa, I came across some bushes of Spanish Broom. Their scent filled the hill.

Seeing those delicate flowers, I recalled the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, one of the greatest poets in the world.

As a very young man, he wrote his poems, and then his poetic inspiration dried up. He could not write beautiful poems anymore!

Only at the end of his life, he got inspiration again and wrote the beautiful poem of which I have translated a few lines, hoping he will forgive me for my amateur translation.

LA GINESTRA

E tu, lenta ginestra,

Che di selve odorate

Queste campagne dispogliate adorni,

Anche tu presto alla crudel possanza

Soccomberai del sotterraneo foco, …

E piegherai sotto il fascio mortal non renitente

Il tuo capo innocente.

THE SPANISH BROOM

And you, lingering Spanish Broom

That decks this bare countryside

With scented bushes,

You too will soon succumb to the cruel power

Of the underground fire (the lava from Vesuvius)…

And you will bend your innocent head

Under your flexible, mortal bunch…

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE ZISA CASTLE IN PALERMO (SICILY)

The Zisa is an Arab-Norman style castle in Palermo and a World Heritage Site. Once, lush gardens surrounded the Zisa. It was the summer and hunting residence of the Norman kings.

King William I, known as William the Wicked, started building it in 1165, but it was his son William II, called the Good, that completed the works.

Walking through the halls of the palace, I tried to imagine the life of those who lived there nearly a thousand years ago. At that time, there was no television, no radio, and no cinema. What did they do? How did they spend their time? Of course, during their banquets, they talked about politics, but also about art and literature, to the sound of music.

These days, the Zisa houses a museum of Islamic art. What impressed me was the Tombstone of Anna. It bears an inscription in four languages: Jewish, Latin, Greek, and Arabic.  At that time, different nationalities and cultures coexisted and flourished in Sicily. Do you think the same tolerance occurs in today’s world?

 Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE SULFUR MINE OF FLORISTELLA, ENNA (SICILY)

Near Lake Pergusa, there is the ancient Sulfur Mine of Floristella, now abandoned. It is part of the Floristella mining park, which includes the ancient Pennisi Palace, named after the owner of the mine. The palace houses a permanent exhibition of pictures dating back to the time when the mine was live. It is also possible to see the ancient entrances to the underground and the Calcheroni furnaces where they smelted the ore.

I have described a sulfur mine in my book, A Hidden Sicilian History. Here is a little excerpt:

After about half an hour of riding, I saw a long line of men, young men, boys, and ragged children walking slowly on the road with the acetylene lanterns in their hands. They looked as if they were souls heading for the Valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem on the day of the Last Judgment.

It was almost dawn when we arrived at a place with many cylinder-shaped stone mounds that gave off smoke on the top, while below a yellow liquid leaked through a crack in the stones_

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

LA SCALA DI SAN GIACOMO (THE STAIRWAY OF ST. JAMES) IN CALTAGIRONE (SICILY)

Caltagirone is a charming city in the Sicilian hinterland. It is famous for its sumptuous Baroque style buildings, the artistic Christmas nativity scenes, and above all, for the art of ceramics, which seems to date back to the Greek period.

The most beautiful palaces were built in the Bourbon period. This denotes that the city must have been thriving at the time of the Kingdom of Naples.

A few days ago, I happened to visit this beautiful city and was mesmerized by the breathtaking view of the Scala di San Giacomo. It leads to the Church of Santa Maria del Monte. The symbolic meaning is clear: to reach the divinity you have to strive a little bit; in this case, you have to climb a quite long stairway. The easy way leads nowhere.

The fronts of the steps are tiled with ceramic. On the sides of the stairway are workshops that also sell nice ceramic objects.

Caltagirone with its Baroque style palaces and the Stairway of St. James is really worth visiting!

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily (English edition)

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English edition)

– The Vibrations of Words (English edition)

– Travels of the Mind (English edition)

– Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (Italian edition)

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE FEAST OF ST. PHILIP IN AIDONE (SICILY)

Aidone is a town in the center of Sicily. It is near the ancient city of Morgantina, and houses the statue of Venus that the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu gave back to Italy.

Aidone is renowned for the pilgrimage that takes place every year on May 1 from nearby towns and villages to the sanctuary of St. Philip the apostle. It can be considered a small Santiago de Compostela, for pilgrims travel on foot, covering long distances (my hometown of Enna is about forty kilometers away).

My grandmother, who was a fervent catholic, told me that, after walking all night, she climbed the stairs to the Sanctuary of St. Philip on her knees. She also told me that some people went up the steps licking them with their tongues.

On this day, it is customary to buy some ribbons, called zagaredde in Sicilian, and rub them on the statue. This way the ribbons are charged with divine energy.

As a child, I used to wear a ribbon tied to my arm, which my grandmother gave me when she returned from the pilgrimage to St. Philip.

Is the feast of St. Philip based on superstition? Who knows, sometimes simpletons see reality better than scholars do.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

ANCIENT AND NEW TOMBS IN ENNA (SICILY)

Enna has always been a city devoted to religion. In old times, the people of Enna buried the dead by digging small rooms in the rock, usually facing south. In the room, painted terracotta vases were placed next to the corpse. Tombs have been excavated that included well-preserved skeletons and red- and black-figure vases. Sometimes in the mouth of the skeleton was found a coin. The Greeks believed that to get to Hades (the kingdom of the dead), souls had to pay a fee of one coin to Charon, who ferried the dead across the Acheron, a river that divided the world of the living from that of the dead.

These days, the tombs in Enna look like small houses with niches inside. Sometimes an epitaph is engraved in the tomb. Here is one:

         Death is a melter.

         It gathers souls here and there.

         Souls of the rich, souls of the poor,

         Souls of the noble, souls of the plebeian.

         It then puts them into its crucible where

         All souls become ONE

This is an excerpt from November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE SEVEN GATES TO ENNA (SICILY)

There were seven gates to get into the city of Enna. Over time, all but one either collapsed or were demolished for urban planning needs.

The only gate still existing is Janniscuru Gate. It stands on one of the slopes of Enna, a mountain city in the center of Sicily.

Enna did not need fortified walls to protect itself against enemy attacks, for the sheer cliffs that surrounded large part of the city, being natural strongholds, were enough to prevent the enemies from taking it.

What was the function of the seven gates in a city without defensive walls? They were there to check people and goods that entered the city and above all to collect taxes on incoming goods. At the time, the most profitable tax for a city was that called by the Romans portaticum (gate tax), but it also existed in ancient Greece. The tax collectors collected it at the gates of the city.

Near Janniscuru Gate, there is a small cave, where the publicans most likely collected taxes and kept accounts.

Since the world began, taxes have always existed! Unfortunately!

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

THE CHURCH OF SANTA CHIARA IN ENNA (SICILY)

If you come to Sicily, do not miss visiting the Church of Santa Chiara in Enna. It has a long history.

For two centuries, it has been the chapel of a Jesuit monastery. After the Jesuits left, above all for political reasons, the cloistered Sisters of Santa Chiara took over, and then they too left, this time because of lack of vocations. After the end of World War II, the chapel was converted into a shrine of fallen soldiers. The altars and the holy statues and pictures were removed. In the walls were placed burial niches where the bodies of the soldiers who died in the war are still kept.

What makes the Church of Santa Chiara unique is the fact that the citizens of Enna placed in the niches not only the bodies of the Italian soldiers, but also those of the foreign soldiers: Germans, British, Americans, and Canadians. who died near Enna.

On one of the walls, there are tombstones that read IGNOTO (UNKNOWN). This is because the people of Enna at that time found it difficult to read and then transcribe the names in the identity tags of the foreign soldiers. They buried them in the church in the same way as they had done with the Italians.

While visiting the Church of Santa Chiara my thoughts went to the war in Ukraine. How many young soldiers on both sides are dying without knowing why! I hope that someday the world will change and no more young soldiers will die for nothing!

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

PANUZZI DI SAN GIUSEPPE (BREAD OF ST. JOSEPH)

March 19, St. Joseph’s Day, is drawing near, and now it is possible to purchase the traditional panuzzi di San Giuseppe in the bakeries in Enna (Sicily). On this day, bread becomes an object of art; furthermore, it is particularly tasty.

Today, my wife and I were strolling in the street, when we came across a bakery that displayed St. Joseph’s bread. It had various shapes, such as a hand, to symbolize the work of an artisan, a hammer, pincers, and nails, to symbolize the tools of a carpenter. In fact, St. Joseph, Jesus’s putative father, was a carpenter, a rich carpenter, according to some. In my hometown of Enna, he is considered the patron saint of the artisans. The name Giuseppe (Joseph) is widespread.

In Leonforte and Valguarnera Caropepe (two towns near Enna), it is customary to set a table with a large amount of bread and tasty food on St. Joseph’s Day. These laid tables are called tavolate di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s tables).Visitors from all over Sicily come to see them. At the end of St. Joseph’s Day, the poor enter the houses and freely eat the food from the tables.

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo