CRISTOPHER COLUMBUS AND SICILY

Cristopher Columbus, the man who discovered America on October 12, 1492, must have known and loved Sicily a lot, for, whenever he arrived in a new land, he compared it with his beloved Sicily.

This can be seen in his logbooks.

When he explored Cuba, on October 28, 1492, he wrote in the logbook: “The island is full of very beautiful mountains, although not very high, and all the remaining part of the island is also high and resembling Sicily.”

During his second travel to America, when he landed in Puerto Rico on 17 September 1493, he compared the island to Sicily, because they both had a triangular shape.

When he finally arrived in Jamaica on May 5 1494, he wrote in the logbook that the island was bigger than Sicily.

Apparently, Sicily was in the heart and mind of Cristopher Columbus, for he used it for comparison, as if Sicily were his home island.

On the other hand, in the fifteenth century, Sicily was a point of reference for the whole of Europe, in the fields of art, literature and science.

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

SNOW IN ENNA, SICILY

It was cold during the winter in Enna. To warm up the rooms, people made use of braziers burning charcoal slack. It was customary to cook small pieces of sausage or a few potatoes, wrapped in yellow, thick paper of the kind used to wrap pasta, in the charcoal. We children vied with one another to eat a small piece of that delicacy.

Since the climate was colder than today, the roofs of the houses were white with snow almost all winter. Whenever I came home from school, I had the bad habit of warming up my frozen feet and hands in front of the brazier. The sudden contact of my cold hands and feet with the heat of the brazier caused me chilblains. My fingers and toes had purple hues and itched. To cure them, I wore thick woolen socks and gloves.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History

Today it snows in Enna like seventy years ago. Obviously, despite climate changes, the earth will survive!

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

TRADITIONAL SICILIAN LUCKY FRUITS AND LEGUMES FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE

According to Sicilian tradition, on New Year’s Eve, a particular kind of lucky fruit and legumes cannot be left out of the dinner: lentils, grapes and pomegranates.

Lentils and grapes have a rounded shape, like coins. Anyone who eats them during New Year’s Eve dinner will have a lucky, money-rich year.

The pomegranate is the fruit that made Kore fall in love with Hades.

The myth says that Demeter’s daughter, Kore, was gathering flowers on the shores of Lake Pergusa, Sicily, when Hades came out of a cave with his chariot drawn by four swift steeds, abducted her and led her to the underworld.

Upon her arrival in the Kingdom of Hades, Kore refused to become his wife. She wanted to go back to the surface of the earth and stay with her mother, but Hades resorted to an expedient. To make her fall in love with him, he offered her some pomegranate grains. As soon as Kore ate six pomegranate grains, her love for Hades blossomed and she became the queen of the underground, under the new name of Persephone.

Nowadays in Sicily, lovers eat pomegranate grains on New Year’s Eve to keep faithful to each other in the year to come. On the other hand, those who do not have a lover eat this fruit to find a soul mate.

As for me, even if I am not a superstitious person, I am going to eat lentils, grapes, and pomegranate grains at New Year’s Eve dinner. You never know!

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 ROCK OF CERES IN ENNA (SICILY)

Ceres is the Latin name for Demeter, the well-known goddess of agriculture in Greek Mythology. Since the Romans had no gods of their own, they adopted the Greek gods.

The Romans revered Ceres so much that, in times of famine, even the Senate of Rome used to send a delegation to Enna, where it was believed to be the home of Ceres, to appease the goddess.

The Rock of Ceres is near the Castle of Lombardy. According to a friend of mine, who is an archeologist, the ancient temple of Ceres, the main in Sicily, was just on the Rock of Ceres and collapsed because it was too close to the edge of the rock.

Whether my archaeologist friend’s thesis is true or not, one thing is certain: The place is full of charm and mystery. From up there you can see almost all of Sicily: Mount Etna with its plumes of smoke, the Madonie mountain range, the beautiful town of Calascibetta, and much more.

When a church or a temple has occupied an area, it leaves an atmosphere rich in sacredness in that place, which lasts for centuries and millennia. Standing on the top of the Rock of Ceres, you can feel this arcane energy of peace and mystery even now. The subtle scent of the Divinity never fades!

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

CHRISTMAS IN ENNA (SICILY)

The heart of the city of Enna is the Piazza San Francesco. It was built to serve people; to be a meeting place.

In the sixties, it was turned into a large parking lot, but in the eighties, it was given back to the citizens, and is now lit up for the Christmas holidays.

Here and there in Enna, you can come across a nativity scene. I recently visited one made by the boys and girls of the Catholic Action of Enna. They are very smart. Inside a small three-story building, they have created workshops for various cultural activities: to learn music, to learn painting, to do theater, to teach Italian to foreigners, and so on.

While I am talking about the crib, my thoughts go to Saint Francis of Assisi. He was number one in many fields. He was the first to make a nativity scene and the first to compose a poem in Italian. We can say that the Italian language was born with St. Francis of Assisi. His superb poem Canticle of the Creatures predates both Dante and the Sicilian school of poetry.

Reading Canticle of the Creatures in front of a nativity scene elevates the spirit!

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

BUCCELLATI AND BAGPIPE PLAYERS IN ENNA (SICILY)

Enna is a mountain city. It is quite cold in the winter, but the bagpipe players and the buccellati warm up the Christmas atmosphere.

Once families got together to make buccellati, typical Sicilian Christmas shortbread cakes that contained dried figs or ground almonds inside. Nowadays, they even put chocolate inside them.

They were cakes made to last all winter. I do not know what did they put in to make them last that long. I only remember that they remained soft and fragrant until the end of February, that is, two months after they had been made, without losing their organoleptic qualities.

Nowadays in Enna, families no longer make buccellati at home, because there are no wood-burning ovens in the houses, and it is much easier to buy them at the bakery. However, the delicious taste of the buccellati has not changed.

https://www.facebook.com/1597725398/videos/pcb.10223896529393283/1246392999186755

During Christmas, bagpipe players walk the streets of Enna and warm our hearts. They remind us that one day a Great Master came down to earth to teach us what love is.

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

PETROSO PALACE AND THE COLLEGE OF MARY IN ENNA (SICILY)

On October 14, 1758, the Sicilian nobleman, Baron Croce Felice Petroso, bequeathed his lands for the establishment of the College of Mary, an institution intended to educate the young people of Enna, a city in the center of Sicily.

Based on Baron Petroso’s will, the College of Mary was managed by the Sisters called Collegine. This lasted until the outbreak of the First World War, when the College of Mary was requisitioned by the government and transformed into a barracks for soldiers.

After the war was over, the College of Mary was entrusted to the Canossian nuns who carried out their educational task until a few years ago.

Now the College of Mary has closed its doors forever.

What about the dreams of benefactor Baron Croce Felice Petroso? Nothing is left but the yellowed sheet of paper containing his will.

Our dreams may not always last forever!

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 ROLE OF THE CONFRATERNITIES IN ENNA (SICILY)

Since time immemorial, Enna has been a city devoted to religiosity. When the Roman orator Cicero stayed in the city to gather evidence against the Roman governor Verres, he had the feeling that the inhabitants of Enna were omnes sacerdotes (all priests).

Until the central government requisitioned churches and convents even for military uses, in the small city of Enna there were sixty-four churches, seven monasteries and seven convents.

Today, also due to the lack of vocations to the priesthood, there is only one convent and two monasteries. As for the churches, they are less than a third of the previous ones. Some were demolished to widen the roads, others collapsed due to lack of maintenance.

The churches still kept in good condition are those that house a confraternity.

One of the oldest confraternities is that of the Most Holy Savior, which dates back to the Middle Ages. It is said that the Knights Templar founded it. The brethren wear a white tunic with a yellow cloak, and their emblem is a Templar cross.

The confraternity maintain the church quite well and recently has inaugurated a few exhibition rooms for ancient paintings and sacred objects.

It’s a mystery! Religion can never die!

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

A LITTLE TASTE OF ITALIAN HISTORY: MATILDA OF CANOSSA, THE WOMAN WHO HUMILIATED THE EMPEROR

In the Middle Ages, during the Investiture Conflict, a very powerful Italian woman, Matilda of Canossa, dared to challenge Emperor Henry IV, and she succeeded.

At the time, Pope Gregory VII took refuge in the castle of Matilda of Canossa to escape the wrath of Emperor Henry IV. When the emperor arrived at the castle of Canossa for having lifted the excommunication, Matilda did not let him in immediately. She made him stay out of the castle for three days and three nights, amidst the raging snowstorms.

Love for the Catholic Church was an archetype in the Canossa family. Many centuries later, at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, another woman, Magdalene of Canossa, challenged her family to give birth to the Canossian Monastic Order, and she succeeded too. The Canossian nuns were cultured and good as speech therapists.

They came to my city of Enna (Sicily) from Brescia, a city in Northern Italy, to take care of two children who were born deaf and dumb. Once in Enna, they excelled in teaching music, painting, embroidery and many other cultural activities. Evidently, the love of Matilda and Magdalene of Canossa was still alive in them.

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 RELIGIOUS FERVOR OF PAST TIMES IN ITALY AND SICILY

In the year 1213, Count Orlando Catani of Chiusi came across Saint Francis of Assisi and was so fascinated by the figure of the saint that he wanted to give him something at any cost. The count wanted to give him money, but St. Francis could not accept because he had made a vow of poverty, so Count Orlando Catani gave him a mountain, an entire mountain! It was Mount Verna. St. Francis often went to meditate and pray in that mountain and it was there that he received the stigmata.

Something similar happened in Enna, Sicily, in 1758, when Baron Croce Felice Petroso bequeathed his entire fiefdom of Ramursura for the establishment of the College of Mary, an institution to be used for the education of the city’s youth. The Canossian Sisters came to the College of Mary, from Brescia, a city in northern Italy. They were highly educated and taught in many areas, including music, embroidery, and care for the deaf and dumb.

Today, the College of Mary is closed. What reminds me of the Canossian Sisters of the College of Mary is two small pictures that were given to my mother by a Sister with a passion for painting.

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