February 24, 2017

Il Cavaliere Calabrese

Mattia Preti, the Knight from Calabria
Pilate Washing His Hands by Mattia Preti
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Mattia Preti was born on February 24, 1613 in Taverna, a small town on the slopes of la Sila Piccola in Calabria. In 1630 the young artist followed his older brother Gregorio to Rome (who arrived two years earlier), where they studied painting at the Accademia di San Luca. There, he became familiar with the works of Caravaggio and his followers. His initial paintings are reminiscent of the dramatic chiaroscuro style of the Lombard master. 
The success of Preti's early works opened up many opportunities for him and he soon acquired important commissions in the Duchy of Modena, most notably the frescoes for the apse and dome of San Biagio. In 1641 or '42 Urban VIII admitted him into the Order of St. John of Malta as a Knight of Obedience. This earned him the moniker Il Cavaliere Calabrese, or the Knight from Calabria. According to his often-quoted biographer Bernardo De Dominici, Preti also traveled to Venice, Spain and the Netherlands, broadening his techniques and developing his skills. Many historians, however, doubt the validity of these travels. Continue reading

13 Tuesdays Novena to St. Anthony of Padua in Historic Little Italy, New York

Also see:
Most Precious Blood Church: An Appreciation

February 23, 2017

A Review of Matteo Garrone’s “Tale of Tales,” based on the book by Giambattista Basile

Tale of Tales movie poster
By Lucian
Just about everyone is familiar with fairy tales and most of us know their origins are very old. Modern versions of these tales can be very different from the older ones, and few realize just how many variations these stories once had. The brothers Grimm compiled the stories in what is now Germany, and their versions became a literary standard, although even these versions have been further edited and modified to become the fairy tales we know and love today.
The tales recorded by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm are often darker in nature than the versions most people are familiar with, leading people to speculate that their name was the basis for the modern English word “grim,” which means uninviting, depressing or harsh. The connection is coincidental, but meaningful. The term “grim” did not derive from the surname “Grimm,” but both share a common etymology, and derive from the Old English or Old High German word for “fierce.” The older versions of fairy tales were often cautionary tales, and as such did not have happy endings.
Alternative artwork
Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), published in 1812 by the brothers Grimm is where the average person stops when looking into the history of a fairy tale, but their work was far from the beginning, and many other variants of those stories existed in their time and before it. Approximately 175 years before their first edition, in the 1630s, a Neapolitan poet and courtier named Giambattista Basile compiled and connected the stories of many fairy tales in his work Lo cunto de li cunti (called the Pentamerone in Italian). The brothers Grimm referenced it for material and, in the third edition of their own book, praised Basile and acknowledged his influence on their work.
In 2015, Matteo Garrone directed a film called Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) based on the work of Giambattista Basile. The film stars Vincent Cassel, Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Hayley Carmichael, Shirley Henderson, Jessie Cave, Christian Lees and Jonah Lees. As with many movie adaptations, only a portion of the book was represented and there were inevitable changes made. To try to include it all simply wouldn’t be practical. The DVD was released in the fall of 2016.
Alternative artwork
The film was fascinating, but disturbing, and while I feel today’s children are sheltered too much from harsh realities, the imagery in Tale of Tales was certainly not for children. One could ask why, with modern horror films and gruesome special effects, I would find this movie disturbing. It was not because I expected a sanitized version of our ancient or traditional fairy tales, it is because the stories brought with them ethical dilemmas and moral conundrums that are not pleasant to think about. The movie is based on stories that occur in a fairy tale setting, but expresses the complexity and sometimes dire consequences of decision making in a way that a Walt Disney movie never could. For example: Is it right to help a stranger? It can be, but what if the action puts your own family in peril? Does obligation to your family supersede personal altruism? Is it right to help someone if it imperils another innocent? What appears to be a simple question, when honestly examined, is not simple at all. The more I think about the movie, the more questions like this arise, even from what at first seemed like insignificant details.
Alternative artwork
The fantastic castles and other scenery in the film were real places in Italy, and most were in the south. These included the Neapolitan Palazzo Reale di Napoli and the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, Apulia’s Castel del Monte, and Sicily’s Castello di Donnafugata. My personal favorites were Abruzzo’s Castello di Roccascalenga and its cliffs, and the Gole dell'Alcantara in Sicily where they filmed the scene of the King and the sea dragon.
Anyone interested in the older, less sanitized versions of fairy tales, or in the beautiful places that this movie was filmed, should definitely take the time to watch it.

Giambattista Basile and the Literary Fairy Tale

Giambattista Basile 
Photo courtesy of il portal del Sud
By Giovanni di Napoli
"Whoever reads Basile's tales can't fail to see the direct ties they have with southern Italian folklore. And we should remember with pride the debt that the European imaginary owes to both our culture and Basile. But we should remember above all that The Tale of Tales is more, and to this it owes its present and perennial greatness." — Carmelo Lettere (1)
The distinction for composing Europe's first collection of literary fairy tales belongs to Giambattista Basile, a Neapolitan soldier, poet and courtier. His Lo cunto de li cunti, overo Lo trattenemiento de 'peccerille (The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones) contains the West's earliest literary versions of some of the most celebrated fairy tales, including "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Hansel and Gretel." Sometimes called Il Pentamerone, the collection was written in the early seventeenth century and published posthumously in 1634-'36. Basile's Tale of Tales predates Germany's renowned Brothers Grimm by nearly two hundred years.
Because he wrote his tales in Neapolitan, Basile's magnum opus remains fairly unknown today. After Italian unification in 1861 Neapolitan was officially replaced with the so-called "Italian language" (i.e. the Florentine vernacular) and undeservedly relegated to the rank of "dialect." The literary works written in the languages of the South have suffered as a consequence and Basile's Tales fell into obscurity. Neapolitan, like the other regional tongues of Italy (e.g. Sicilian), continue to decline in importance due to the cultural leveling taking place in Italy. Continue reading

February 22, 2017

Knights Out On the Town

Sated partygoers outside Patrizia's Neapolitan pizzeria and restaurant
 Photos by Cav. John Napoli
By Cav. John Napoli
After Mass Saturday evening, knights and postulants of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George met at Patrizia’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for a little fellowship and to celebrate the recent appointment of Nob. Dr. Robert LaRocca as our Vice-Delegate.
Packed to the gills, Patrizia’s was loud and exuberant. Serendipitously, almost every table that night was celebrating a birthday (or two!). Staff and diners would wildly twirl their cloth napkins in the air (“rally towel” style) while singing “Happy Birthday” or “Jolly Good Fellow.” So be warned, while ideal for a party, the uproarious atmosphere is not conducive to a quiet or relaxing evening. 
After saying grace and toasting our kings of yore, our party was treated to a bevy of delicious courses served by Patrizia’s crack wait staff. Naturally, our meal began with a few outstanding antipasti dishes, bountiful plates of burrata all’amalfitana, mulignan a fungitiell and parmigiana di melanzane. This was soon followed by a veritable seafood bonanza, which included polpo alla fuorigrotta, al forno vongole, cozze alla posillipo and insalata di pesce misto, among others. 
After a much-needed break, our sumptuous (and admittedly somewhat decadent) repast continued with classic pizza napoletana, vongole alla positano and Patrizia’s signature pasta dish, fioretti alla boscaiola, ricotta-stuffed “little purses” smothered in a creamy mushroom and prosciutto sauce. 
Incredibly, there was still more to come! The servers brought out platters of perfectly cooked skirt steak and lamb chops with salad. Luckily for me, I was warned beforehand not to fill-up too soon because there would be several courses served and each one could have been a meal in and of itself. Capped off with dessert and espresso, we definitely experienced the full gamut of their menu.
Each of us received a custom patch
courtesy of Cav. Vincent Gangone
I was more than a little relieved when the extra food was packed up to take home (or offer to a homeless person) and not waisted.
Although the food was exceptional (I highly recommend Patrizia's), without a doubt the highlight of the evening was Baron LaRocca. His Excellency regaled us with the history and lore of our illustrious Order, the Royal Family and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. 
Reputed to have a one of a kind collection of Bourbon–Two Sicilies memorabilia, the Baron was thoughtful enough to bring out one of his prized pieces to share with us. Complete with their original gilded presentation case and red watered silk ribbon, he passed around a breast star and neck badge of the Royal Order of Saint Januarius (Isigne Reale Ordine di San Gennaro). 
Founded on July 3, 1738 by HM King Carlo di Borbone in celebration of his marriage to Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, the Order was created to honor San Gennaro, the Patron Saint of Naples, and to foster true chivalry and Christian brotherhood. Membership, never numbering more than twenty worthy gentleman at any given time, was drawn exclusively from the Royal Families of Europe and high aristocracy of the Kingdom. They were expected to “increase, at all costs, the Holy Religion” and to be “a heroic example of piety towards God and loyalty towards their Prince.”*
The beautiful insignia is made up of a cross with four bifurcated arms separated by fleur-de-lis. The Order’s motto In Sanguine fœdus, or “a covenant by blood,” is inscribed beneath the half-length image of San Gennaro with pastoral staff and ampoules of blood resting on the Book of the Gospels.
What a thrill it was to see them in person. Next to the relics of the saints and, of course, my own medals, these were perhaps the most awe-inspiring objects I ever held in my hands. 
Thank you Delegate John M. Viola, Vice-Delegate Baron LaRocca, Vice-Chancellor Patrick O’Boyle; my confratelli Cav. Thomas Crane, Cav. Anthony O’Boyle, Cav. Thomas Portelli, Cav. Charles Sant’Elia; and postulants Rosanna Minervini, Michael Auricchio and Andrew Portelli for a fantastic evening. I look forward to getting together again soon. Special thanks to Cav. Vincent Gangone for organizing the affair. Your hard work and dedication to our community is an inspiration to us all. It was an honor and a privilege to be a part of this high-spirited celebration. Viva ‘o Rre! 
* For more about the Royal Order of Saint Januarius visit www.realcasadiborbone.it
The Baron discussing the history of the Order
while Rossana admires the medals
(L-R) Breast star and neck badge of the Royal Order of Saint Januarius 
(Isigne Reale Ordine di San Gennaro)
(L-R) Ornate presentation box with Royal Coat of Arms and wax seal ring with Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George insignia

Chair of San Pietro Apostolo

Altar of the Chair of Peter by Bernini
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
February 22nd is the Chair of San Pietro Apostolo (St. Peter the Apostle), first Pope and martyr. Known as the “Prince of Apostles,” St. Peter is the patron saint of fisherman, sailors, bakers, bridge builders, clock makers and, of course, the Papacy. He is also invoked against fever, hysteria and foot ailments. Widely venerated across southern Italy, he is the principal patron of San Pietro al Tanagro (SA), San Pietro Apostolo (CZ), Riposto (CT), San Pietro Vernotico (BR), and San Pietro in Lama (LE), among others. To commemorate the occasion I’m posting a prayer to St. Peter. The accompanying photos were taken during my 2007 pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Prayer to St. Peter

Pilgrim touching the foot of St. Peter
O blessed St Peter, head and chief of the Apostles, thou art the guardian of the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and against thee the powers of hell do not prevail; thou art the rock of the Church and the shepherd of Christ’s flock; thou art great in power, wonderful in thy heavenly bliss; thou hast the right of binding and loosing in heaven and on earth. The sea supported thy footsteps, the sick upon whom even thy shadow fell were cured of their ills. By the memory of that right hand which supported thee on the waves of the sea, lift me from the ocean of my sins, and by those tears which thou didst shed for thy Lord, break the bonds of my offenses and free me from the hand of all my adversaries. Help even me, O good shepherd, that I may in this life serve Christ Jesus and thee, that with thy help, after the close of a good life, I may deserve to attain the reward of eternal happiness in heaven, where thou art unto endless ages the guardian of the gates and the shepherd of the flock. Amen.

February 20, 2017

Feast of San Leone di Catania

Icon of San Leone di Catania
By Giovanni di Napoli

February 20th is the Feast Day of San Leone di Catania (Saint Leo, Bishop of Catania), patron saint of Rometta (ME), Longi (ME), Sinagra (ME) and Saracena (CS). Renowned for his compassion and charity, San Leone was also known as "the wonderworker," due to the many healing miracles attributed to his mediation.

Though kind and generous, the beloved Bishop was not one to be trifled with. According to popular legend, a wicked and troublesome magician named Heliodorus (Eliodoro) would regularly harass San Leone and cause disturbances during Mass. Sowing confusion and doubt among the congregants with black magic, the fiend repeatedly refused San Leone’s requests to cease and repent.

San Leone defeating Heliodorus
Chiesa del Santissimo Crocifisso
Santa Maria di Licodia, Catania
Fed up with sorcerer’s impudence (and fearful for the wellbeing of his parishioners) San Leone ordered a bonfire built in the piazza. Dragging Heliodorus by his collar, together they jumped onto the burning pyre. Consumed by the flames the charlatan was immolated, leaving behind a pile of smoldering ash. Dusting off his omophorion (shoulder vestment), San Leone returned to Mass unscathed and triumphant.

Venerated by both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, I’m posting a Troparion and Kontakion of St. Leo of Catania (courtesy of the Orthodox Church of America). Evviva San Leone!
Troparion — Tone I
You were shown forth as a resplendent priest, / a teacher of godliness and a wonderworker, blessed hierarch Leo; / by the light of heavenly virtue you were enriched with the power of the Spirit, / and heal the souls and bodies of those who hasten to you. / Glory to Christ who has glorified you! / Glory to Him who has crowned you! / Glory to Him who through you works healing for all!
Kontakion — Tone II
With hymns of praise let us crown Leo, / who was consecrated to the Lord from early childhood; / he received grace while still a babe in swaddling clothes. / He is a brightly shining star in the Church: / its valiant defender and firm support!

February 17, 2017

“Beyond Caravaggio” Exhibit Opens at The National Gallery of Ireland

Sleeping Cupid by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo (b. Naples 1578–d. Naples 1635) 
Photo courtesy of www.artsy.net
February 11th – May 14th, 2017 | Beit Wing
Caravaggio is widely acknowledged as bringing a revolution to painting during the Baroque period with his dramatic use of light and uncompromising realism. His work had a long-lasting and wide-reaching influence across Europe. This exhibition brings together over 40 major works which will show the ways in which a large number of artists adopted Caravaggio’s ideas and developed them to become masters in their own right. 
Four major works by Caravaggio will take centre stage in the exhibition: The Supper at Emmaus, 1601 (National Gallery, London); The Taking of Christ, 1602 (National Gallery of Ireland), as well as two works never exhibited before in Ireland: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1594-95 (National Gallery, London) and Boy Peeling Fruit, c.1592 (The Royal Collection). These will be joined by other significant masterpieces from the work of the Caravaggisti
This exhibition is a unique collaboration between the National Gallery, London, the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Galleries of Scotland.  Many of the works in the show are on loan from private collections, and regional galleries, providing visitors with a rare opportunity to see works not easily available to the public. 
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Thank you Louise from Artsy for bringing this wonderful exhibit to our attention. For more information visit Artsy’s Beyond Caravaggio page, which showcases Caravaggio and artists he inspired. 

Announcing the 124th Annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carme in Melrose Park, Illinois


February 16, 2017

To the Shores of Tripoli

The Story of the Unsung Hero of the First Barbary War
Burning of the frigate USS Philadelphia
in the harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804,
by Edward Moran, painted 1897

By Niccolò Graffio
“It would be unjust of me, were I to pass over the important services rendered by Mr. Salvatore Catalano, on whose conduct the success of the enterprise in the greatest degree depended.” – Lt. Stephen Decatur: writing in his official report on the burning of the Philadelphia; February, 1804.
Piracy is an ancient plague of mariners and coastal-dwelling peoples. For as long as men have taken to the seas in the name of commerce there have been those who have taken it upon themselves to prey upon them. The earliest mentions of pirates in history are found in the chronicles of the ancient Egyptians who spoke of the depredations of the “Sea Peoples” which disrupted the shipping lanes of the Eastern Mediterranean in the 13th century BC. Continue reading

February 15, 2017

US Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George Announces New Vice-Delegate

Nob. Dr. Robert LaRocca
We are pleased to announce that HE Delegate, Cav. John M. Viola has appointed our confratello, Nob. Dr. Robert LaRocca as Vice-Delegate of the US Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. A long-serving member, Baron LaRocca’s dedication to our sacred Order and our Royal Family is unquestioned. Decorated as Commander in 1981 and Knight Commander in the grade of Justice in December 2016, he also served as a member of the National Council of the Order as the representative of HRH Prince Carlo di Borbone. His experience and knowledge is an invaluable asset to our efforts. 
Congratulations Baron LaRocca, we wish you the very best!

Announcing Boston's 97th Annual Feast in Honor of the Madonna Della Cava


February 14, 2017

Feast of Sant'Antonino di Sorrento

Evviva Sant'Antonino!
Piazza Sant'Antonino, Sorrento
February 14th is the Feast Day of Sant'Antonino Abate (Saint Antoninus of Sorrento), protector of Campagna (SA) and Sorrento (NA). 
Born circa 550 AD in Campagna, a small town in the Province of Salerno, Sant'Antonino entered a local Benedictine monastery (some sources say it was the Abbey of Monte Cassino). Forced to flee due to pillaging Lombards, he withdrew to Castellammare di Stabia where he lived as a hermit on Monte Aureo (now Monte Faito), the highest peak of the Lattari Mountains. Following a vision, he erected a sanctuary on the mountain top in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel with the help of his friend Saint Catellus (San Catello Vescovo). Popular among the people of Sorrento, Sant'Antonino eventually succeeded Saint Catellus as abbot of the Monastery of San Agrippino.
Sant'Antonino by Tommaso Solari
Piazza Tasso, Sorrento
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Sant'Antonino is reputed to have performed many miracles, including saving Sorrento from Saracen attacks in 1354 and 1358. It is said that he was buried, according to his dying wishes, within the city's ancient walls, thus making them impregnable. During a Lombard attack, the section containing the saint's remains withstood the assault. Legend tells us that Prince Sicard of Benevento was haunted (and beaten!) in his dreams by Sant'Antonino's cudgel wielding apparition until he lifted the siege. 
The Saint, however, is best remembered for rescuing a young child from a giant cetacean. According to the legend, several children were playing along the seashore when a sea creature sprung up and swallowed the boy whole. The child's distraught mother immediately sought help from Antonino. A crowed followed the holy man to the coast, where he called on them to pray for the child's safety. Miraculously, the monster returned and immediately released the frightened, but unharmed, child from his gaping maw.
To commemorate the occasion I'm posting a Prayer to Sant'Antonino Abate. The accompanying photos were taken during my 2007 visit to Sorrento.
Prayer to Sant'Antonino Abate
Glorious San Antonino, beloved patron of Sorrento, you served God in humility and confidence on earth. In common supplication we turn to you, holy Father Antonino, our gentle patron, asking you to protect this city by the aid of your intercession. May its people be ever devoted to Christ and to you, by serving God and by loving and honoring you. Amen

Feast of San Valentino Martire

Evviva San Valentino!
February 14th is the Feast Day of San Valentino (Saint Valentine’s Day), Bishop and Martyr. He is the patron saint of happy marriages, love, courtship and beekeepers, as well as protector of citrus crops and protection against epilepsy and plague. Widely venerated across southern Italy, he is the principal patron of San Valentino Torio (SA), Vico del Gargano (FG), Abriola (PZ), San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore (PE) and Mafalda (CB), among others. To commemorate the occasion I’m posting a Prayer to Saint Valentine. The accompanying photo comes courtesy of Oratorio San Valentino Torio, Salerno.
Prayer to Saint Valentine
Dear Saint and glorious martyr, teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other. Let them love each other in God and in God in each other. Amen.

February 13, 2017

A Matter of Honor

In Days Of Old When Knights Were Bold….
Actors recreating the legendary ‘Challenge of Barletta’
Photo courtesy of www.DisfidadiBarletta.net
By Niccolò Graffio
“Whoever would not die to preserve his honor would be infamous.” – Blaise Pascal: Pensées, III, 1670.
History and Geography were always my two favorite subjects in school. No doubt the fact I was so good in them was a factor (I never received less than an “A” in either of them). The overriding factor, though, was my lifelong fascination with peoples and places from the past. I must confess to having a special attachment to Greco-Roman history, but given the enormous contributions of ancient Greeks and Romans to the history of Western Civilization, it should be understandable.
In my salad days I was introduced to those periods in history known as the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by attending a Renaissance Faire in upstate New York (Sterling Forest, to be exact). This is not to say I did not learn about these periods while in school. I did, but they were such quick and dry reading (thanks in large part to the politically correct curricula of the New York City Dept. of Education), they really didn’t pique my interest. Standing there in Sterling Forest, however, surrounded by medieval trappings (melded with the crass commercialism of modern-day America), opened up a whole new world for me. Continue reading

Announcing the 2017 Feast of the Madonna del Sacro Monte in Clifton, New Jersey

February 10, 2017

Brother Rosary: Bartolo Longo of Brindisi

Bartolo Longo
By Niccolò Graffio
“He that repents is angry with himself; I need not be angry with him.” – Benjamin Whichcote: Moral and Religious Aphorisms, 1753
Bartolo Longo was born on February 10th, 1841 to Dr. Bartolomeo Longo and Antonina (nee) Luparelli in the town of Latiano, in the province of Brindisi, Apulia at the time that region was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He had the good fortune of being born into a prosperous family which guaranteed for him a better lifestyle than most of those living around him.
His parents were devout Roman Catholics, especially his mother, who taught young Bartolo to pray the Rosary on a daily basis. At an early age he demonstrated a marked intelligence. That, plus his parents’ prosperity, insured for him a good education. In addition to academics he also studied the piano and the flute. Records show he did well in all his endeavors. Continue reading

Shadows Across My Screen

Elvira Notari and the Suppression of Southern Italian Cinematic Culture
Elvira and Nicola Notari
By Niccolò Graffio
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell (As quoted in My Few Wise Words of Wisdom by Charles Walker, 2000)
If one seeks to create a new nation out of pre-existing peoples, mythology becomes important.  Mythology, whether of a religious, philosophical or historical nature, can serve as a glue to bind together otherwise disparate elements in a society. It is not enough to simply create this mythology; one must also propagate and inculcate it into the masses to the point where it is accepted unquestionably by the majority. In times past this fell to the priests of whatever religion served the rulers of the polity. Nowadays, it is the responsibility of those who walk the halls of Academia and the mass media. Continue reading