THE HERMITAGE OF SANTA ROSALIA IN SANTO STEFANO DI QUISQUINIA (SICILY)

Santa Rosalia was born in Palermo in the XII century. Around the age of fourteen, his father, Count Sinibaldo, promises her in marriage to a prince. Santa Rosalia refused to marry and fled into a cave amidst the woods of Santo Stefano di Quisquinia, a place where nobody could find her. Obviously, near the cave there was a church or a convent where she received help and support. She lived in the cave for twelve years, and then she returned to Palermo to spend the rest of her short life in another cave in Monte Pellegrino.

The former cave of Santa Rosalia is quite long and narrow. Yesterday, I walked almost to the end of it. I felt that it was charged with spirituality.

Visiting the hermitage, I saw the cells of the friars. They were all oriented to Palermo, the city of Santa Rosalia.

In front of one of the cells was the photo and the ID of one of the last monks that lived in the hermitage.

A holy book stood out on a table of the dining room. Somebody told me that while the monks were eating, another monk stood and read aloud. Of course, he had eaten in advance.

On the ground floor was the room where the monks placed the dead. They eviscerated the corpse and, after six months, they moved it into a glass cabinet. The novices that wanted to become monks had to stay in the skeleton room for one week, drinking just water.  It was a good way to meditate, indeed! Don’t you think the rules of the world would benefit from meditating in such a room for one week?

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 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 ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ST. ELIJAH THE SICILIAN AND ST. FILARETO, IN SEMINARA (CALABRIA)

Both St. Elijah the Sicilian – also known as St. Elijah of Enna, or St. Elijah the Younger to distinguish him from the Biblical prophet – and St. Filareto were Sicilian; the former was born in my hometown of Enna, the latter was from Palermo.

Having heard of the miraculous life of my fellow citizen, St. Elijah the Younger, I wanted to visit the monastery he had founded in Seminara, Calabria.

This saint is revered by both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches, for, when he lived, the Byzantine Schism had not begun.

While waiting for the church to open, I wondered why these two saints are so revered. What did they do that was special? I had the feeling that my fellow citizen, St. Elijah, was explaining to me the spiritual path he had followed. “To be a saint,” he seemed to say, “you need only one thing: to be a simple person!”

Meanwhile, the church opened and I took some photos, including those of the relics kept there. They are two small pieces of the bodies of St. Elijah and St. Filareto.

When I left the Monastery I thought that simplicity is more valuable than gold!

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

ARCANE DRAWINGS IN THE SKY OF ENNA (SICILY)

Since I have lived in Enna, I have never seen such mysterious signs in the sky.

My apartment faces west. Therefore, it is natural for me to watch sunset.
Each sunset has its own charm but a few days ago, the fantastic sunset scene, observed by me so many times, took on a mysterious air: The sky was furrowed with strange drawings.

At first, I thought they were flocks of birds. However, I immediately ruled out such a hypothesis because in Sicily we do not have this kind of both sedentary and migratory birds that can gather in such large numbers.

The drawings could have been a kind of chemtrails, but no civilian or military aircraft has ever made such strange and extended swirls in the sky.
So what were those signs? I do not dare to give any interpretation, but I think they were a form of language that conveyed a warning to humans. If any of you readers know more, let me 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

EASTER CELEBRATIONS REAPPEAR IN ENNA (SICILY)

After two years of interruption, due to the reasons we all know, the confreres walk again the streets of Enna, wearing the ancient procession garments that date back to the time when Sicily was a Spanish colony.

One of the most ancient confraternities is that of Maria SS. Del Rosario. It was founded in 1542 under Spanish rule. Only they who belonged to the noble class were admitted to the confraternity. Their task was to assist those condemned to the stake and bury them. At the time, heretics and homosexuals were burned at the stake in large numbers.   

In Enna, death sentences were enforced in the largest square, which is called Municipality Square. Near the scaffold was the small Church of the Lady of Sorrows, where the convict received the confession of sins and Holy Communion before filing towards the stake. Recent excavations in the Church of the Lady of Sorrows brought to light a crypt where those condemned to death spent the last hours of their lives.

These days, the confraternities have lost their original meaning. Do the confreres perform a folkloristic show or truly feel the religious meaning of Holy Week?

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History (English version)

–  Una Storia Siciliana Nascosta (versione in lingua italiana)

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind

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