October 29, 2012

A look at the 2012 Feast of San Vincenzo Martire in NYC

Viva San Vincenzo!
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
By Giovanni di Napoli

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of attending the 111th Annual Feast of San Vincenzo Martire, protector of Craco, at Saint Joseph's Church (5 Monroe Street) in Manhattan. Sponsored by the Craco Society, the festivities coincided with the 220th anniversary of San Vincenzo's relic arriving in Craco from Rome. Mass was celebrated by Rev. Msgr. Nicholas Grieco and Rev. Fr. Nicholas Mormando. Fittingly, both celebrants' ancestors hail from Craco and spoke glowingly of the Society's devotion to San Vincenzo. Cantor Susan Mello was superb.
Donations are pinned onto the 1930s era statue of San Vincenzo
The Craco Society are a hardworking, dedicated group of people who provide an invaluable service to our community. In addition to sponsoring the Mass and Feast in honor of San Vincenzo, they organize trips to Craco and an annual North American Reunion. What's more, they translate and publish important tracts and email an informative monthly newsletter filled with interesting news and data documenting Crachese history and heritage. (I was honored to be given a copy of Homage to the Madonna della Stella, one of the works translated by the society.) On top of that, they recently restored the historic statue of San Vincenzo at Saint Joseph's Church. 
The 1901 statue of San Vincenzo
The reclining statue, dating from 1901, is a copy of the relic in Craco. It's one of the last tangible pieces of Crachesi history in Manhattan from the turn of the twentieth-century.
The relic of San Vincenzo
Also on display was the Saint's sacred bone relic. Normally kept inside the glass case with the statue of San Vincenzo the ornate reliquary was exhibited for veneration.
A close up of the relic
Regrettably I had a previous engagement, so I couldn't partake in the after-party, but I did get to mingle a little with revelers and snap a few photos before leaving.
Rev. Msgr. Nicholas Grieco offers a prayer in Italian and English before lunch
Seeing that October 28th is the Feast Day of Saint Jude Thaddeus, patron of desperate causes, I paid my respects at his shrine near the entrance of the church.
Saint Jude Thaddeus 
A look inside beautiful Saint Joseph's Church
Also see:

October 28, 2012

Feast of San Vincenzo Martire

San Vincenzo Martire
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
The fourth Sunday of October is the Feast Day of San Vincenzo Martire, patron Saint of Craco, Lucania. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a Prayer to Saint Vincent. (*) The accompanying photos of the Saint were taken at the shrine of San Vincenzo at Saint Joseph's Church (5 Monroe Street) in Manhattan. For more on Saint Vincent's Feast Day please visit the Craco Society and the San Fele Society.

San Vincenzo Martire
(Courtesy of the Craco Society)
Prayer to St. Vincent
Patron of Craco, Lucania

O strong and glorious St. Vincent,
our distinguished patron, who
had the honor of giving your life
for loyal testimony to Jesus Christ,
turn your loving gaze on us
who by wise design of
providence, are, the unworthy,
fortunate guardians of your relics.

Teach us, oh, generous Martyr,
the tenacity to do good
in the way in which you serve as model,
having preserved good intentions
even when you were violently
torn from the quiet life of our family.

Communicate with our souls
a little of the great love
which you showed
evidence of in your lifetime.
Pray to the Lord Jesus
that because the generosity of
your love of the Cross, that our hearts will be
evermore enkindled.
Present to Jesus, sweet friend
of our souls and crown of Martyrs our
earnest desire to support
courageously, like you,
every suffering of our lives, Amen
Another look at San Vincenzo Martire
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
Also see:

(*) A Prayer to St. Vincent courtesy of the San Felese Society

The Lioness of the South: Michelina De Cesare

Michelina De Cesare
Oct. 28, 1841 — Aug. 30, 1868
By Giovanni di Napoli
On March 17, 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was born. The events that led to its birth are many but most are hidden behind the myths of theRisorgimento, a romanticized, but false, version of Italian unity. Portraying themselves as liberators, the House of Savoy effectively annexed and colonized the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Papal States. It didn't take long after unification that the lies and false promises of the Northern conquerors become apparent. The new rulers not only continued the unjust policies they promised to eliminate but in many cases they exacerbated them.

Betrayed and desperate, the people of the South rebelled against the Piedmontese and their collaborators. For well over a decade the Northern invaders waged a bloody war of repression against the Southern insurrection, deceitfully referred to as "the war against brigandage." The occupational forces committed many atrocities against the so-called "brigands," perhaps the most famous of which were the Pontelandolfo and Casalduni massacres. The Southerners retaliated by exacting retribution whenever possible. At its peak, over 100,000 soldiers were needed to suppress the revolt. Tribunals, roundups, deportations and summary executions were an integral part of Italian nation building. Continue reading

October 25, 2012

The Lessons of Abu Tabela

Paolo di Avitabile
Oct. 25, 1791—March 28, 1850
By Lucian

Paolo di Avitabile was born in Agerola, near Amalfi. He was a Neapolitan soldier who reached the rank of Lieutenant and was recommended for promotion and decoration by General Delaver after displaying great courage and being wounded twice during the siege of Gaeta. Unfortunately, in his case, the General was ignored and Avitabile was instead transferred to a light infantry division under the same rank. He resigned in disgust at his treatment, but went on to become a successful mercenary in the east, and eventually became the governor of Wazirabad and then Peshawar. He was also a scholar and engineer, and worked closely with Lehna Singh Majithia, the renowned Sikh engineer. After his adventurous career he returned with his fortune to his homeland in Naples, where he married a local girl but then died under suspicious circumstances.

Although Avitabile was interesting and successful, you may be wondering why he is special enough to be remembered as a significant figure in Southern Italian history, especially since he became a mercenary and political figure outside of his European homeland. The answer is because Paolo di Avitabile was also known as the legendary figure Abu Tabela. Continue reading

October 24, 2012

Announcing the Saints Cosmas & Damian Society's Annual "Gaeta Night" Banquet

November 10, 2012 
(7:00 PM Cocktail Hour, 8:00 PM Dinner)

Club 440
(Liberty Room)
295 California Street
Newton, Massachusetts

Ticket price: $69.00
Call (617) 661-1164
for tickets

Catering by
Maria's Catering
Music by "The Cosmos"
Special guests from Gaeta, Italy: Padre Giuseppe Rosini and Padre Giovanni Cardillo della Chiesa degli Scalzi

This year's honorees 
Man of the Year: Damiano Granata 
Woman of the Year: Maria Albano Lisi 
Family of the Year: The Trifone Family

The Saints Cosmas & Damian Society hosts its annual banquet each autumn. Over the years, the banquet has grown in size as it has become an ever more popular event among the local Italian/American community, dignitaries, businesses, and supporters of our organization. 

The event is organized by the DiDomenico family, one of the more prominent families in our society, and all proceeds benefit the organization and the charities we support. Entertainers such as Anna Marie Alberghetti, Lou Carry, Mario Tacca, Mary Mancini, Christina Fontanelli, "The Capris", "Joey Dee and the Starliters", and Enzo Amara, have entertained the banquet crowd over the years. The evening is filled with glamour and surprise as a full course, "Italian Style", meal is served to all guests, and Italian/American dance music fills the air with nostalgia and charm. Traditionally, the Society members donate several gift baskets for a stupendous gift/raffle table. 

The hallmark of the evening, is the presentation of the Society's, "Man and Woman of the Year Awards". These annual awards of honor are given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the Society, or to the Italian/American community. These awards have been presented to such individuals since 1987. 

On occasion, the Society has also presented, "President's Award" and "Family of the Year Award", to notable individuals and families in recognition of their efforts toward the organization. 

For more information please visit:

October 23, 2012

The Emperor of Philadelphia

No man in the history of the City of Philadelphia was more loved, hated, admired, feared and despised than Mayor Francis L. Rizzo, Sr.
Monument to Mayor Frank Rizzo (Photo by New York Scugnizzo)

By Niccolò Graffio
“The streets of Philadelphia are safe.  It’s only the people who make them unsafe.” – Frank. L. Rizzo
“The City of Brotherly Love” began as a settlement founded by William Penn in 1682.  The previous year, Penn had received a charter from King Charles II of England to establish what would eventually become the Pennsylvania Colony.  Penn, a Quaker, had experienced religious persecution in England and was desirous of founding a colony in the New World where there would be absolute freedom of worship.  His “Holy Experiment” included the building of a city this farsighted soul believed would one day form, as he put it, “…the seed of a nation.”

The City of Philadelphia was officially established by Penn with the Charter of 1701. Penn derived the name of the city from the Greek philos (“love” or “friendship”) and adelphos (“brother”). At this time the city’s inhabitants were mostly settlers from the British Isles, as well as some Germans, Finns, Dutch and slaves from Africa. True to Penn’s vision, many religious minorities settled the area. In addition to Quakers, Mennonites, Catholics, Pietists and even some Jews helped to build the early city. As it grew, Philadelphia began to emerge as an important regional commercial center, facilitating trade between the Caribbean and British colonies in the northeast.

Almost from the beginning William Penn’s vision suffered a series of setbacks, including a number of riots usually initiated by drunk and loutish British sailors against the city’s pacifistic Quaker and German-Mennonite populations.  The most spectacular of these incidents occurred during the infamous “Bloody Election” of October, 1741. Continue reading

October 18, 2012

Luca 'fà-Presto' Giordano

San Nicola in gloria by Luca Giordano
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
[The following article was originally posted on October 18, 2009. I've since added photos of San Nicola in gloria (Museo Civico) from my visit to Naples in 2010Saint Sebastian Cured by Saint Irene from the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2011King Tiridates Before Saint Gregory the Armenian from the Boston Museum of Art in 2012 and The Flight into Egypt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I inadvertently left out the first time around. Also included, for illustrative purposes, is a reprint of a photo of Giordano's St. Benedict and the Miraculous Sacks of Grain from the Abbey of Montecassino, destroyed in 1944. For more on the lost works from the Abbey see, "Montecassino" by Robert Enggass, p. 41-55, A Taste For Angels, Yale University Art Gallery, 1987.]
Today I treated myself with a trip to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The occasion was in celebration of one of my favorite Southern Italian artists, Luca Giordano. I thought I would pay homage to the Baroque master on his birthday by viewing some of his works in person. Continue reading

October 16, 2012

Feast of San Gerardo Maiella

Saint Gerard Maiella
(Photo by New York Scugnizzo)
October 16th is the Feast Day of Saint Gerard Maiella, patron of motherhood. To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting a prayer for expectant mothers.(*) The accompanying photo of the Saint was taken during the 2012 Feast of Saint Gerard at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.

Prayer For Motherhood

O good St. Gerard, powerful intercessor before God and Wonderworker of our day, I call upon thee and seek thy aid. Thou who on earth didst always fulfill God's designs, help me to do the holy Will of God. Beseech the Master of Life, from Whom all paternity proceedeth, to render me fruitful in offspring that I may raise up children to God in this life and heirs to the Kingdom of His Glory in the world to come. Amen.

(*) Prayer For Motherhood was reprinted from The Feast of St Gerard Maiella, C.Ss.R.: A Century of Devotion at St. Lucy's, Newark, New Jersey by Reverend Thomas D. Nicastro, The History Press, 2012, p. 148

Also see:

October 15, 2012

Ongoing Exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Youth as a Lamp Bearer*
• Roman Ephebe from Naples

Youth as a Lamp Bearer, a long-term loan from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa.

Created about 20-10 B.C., the Roman bronze figure of a ephebe, or youth, was excavated in 1925 in a well-appointed residence, now called the House of the Ephebe—named for this statue—off Pompeii's Via dell'Abbondanza. Referred to as the Efebo Lampadoforo (Youth as a Lamp Bearer), the figure holds ornate tendrils that served as candelabrum branches. Continue reading

• The Sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone at Morgantina

On view until January 21, 2013 

A cache of over 30 votive offerings excavated from the sanctuaries of the ancient city of Morgantina is on loan from the Museo Archeologico Regionale of Aidone, Sicily. These objects, which date from 400 to 200 B.C., were given as gifts by worshippers to Demeter and her daughter Persephone, goddesses of agricultural fertility who also presided over the feminine sphere. Ranging from brightly painted (and originally bejeweled) terracotta figures of the deities (at right) to personal ornaments such as bone hair pins and oil lamps used in nocturnal rituals, the artifacts reveal religious practices and highlight the vibrancy of local craftsmanship. The loans are showcased in a special installation in Gods and Goddesses (Gallery 104) at the Getty Villa. Continue reading

The Getty Villa Malibu
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272
Phone: (310) 440-7300

* Photos courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum

Remembering a Hero

Salvo D'Acquisto
(Photo courtesy of 
By Lucian

Salvo D'Acquisto was born in Naples on October 15th, 1920. In 1939, during the Fascist epoch, he voluntarily enlisted in the Carabinieri, which was at the time the first corps of the Italian army in addition to military/federal police (Gendarmerie).

A year later, shortly before the start of the Second World War, he was dispatched to Libya with the 608th Police Section. During his tour he was wounded but remained with his division until contracting malaria. In 1942 he returned to Italy, was sent to officer school and graduated as a vice brigadier (deputy sergeant).

After this Salvo was assigned to Torrimpietra, near Rome. In September of 1943, shortly after the remnants of the Italian government officially rescinded their alliance with the Axis, a German SS division was stationed near a derelict military installation in an area under the jurisdiction of Salvo’s outpost. This occurred during a very difficult time in Italy, their government was effectively useless and the country was under the direct control of either the German or Allied invaders. On September 22 two of these German soldiers were caught in an explosion while inspecting boxes of abandoned munitions. One was wounded and the other killed. Continued reading

Pix from the 113th Annual Feast of Saint Gerard Maiella in Newark, New Jersey

Viva San Gerardo, patron of motherhood!
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
A look at yesterday's Feast of Saint Gerard Maiella at Saint Lucy's Church in Newark, New Jersey.

Throngs of devotees gathered at Saint Lucy's Church to venerate the Saint
To the crowds delight, St. Gerard emerges from the church 
The Saint is draped with 'blankets' of money 
A look inside beautiful Saint Lucy's Church, National Shrine to Saint Gerard 
Saint Gerard in Heavenly Glory by Gonippo Raggi.
Mural on the apse in Saint Gerard's Chapel
One of several paintings by Raggi depicting the life of the Saint
Inside the Chapel 
Next door to the church, displaying tons of historical memorabilia, is the Museum of the Old First Ward (in the basement of St. Lucy's Community Center)
Some badges and pins on display
Among the museum's many treasures is an authentic Neapolitan Presepio

October 14, 2012

Pix from the 2012 Fiaccolata di San Rocco in Astoria, Queens

Viva San Rocco!
(Photos by New York Scugnizzo)
 A look at yesterday's Mass and procession commemorating San Rocco, sponsored by Societá Gioventú Quagliettana.
Devotees sing and pray to Saint Rocco
A labor of love: members of the society carry Saint Rocco to Saint Joseph's Church (43-19 30 Avenue, Astoria 11103) 
The candlelight procession makes its way through the neighborhood 
Entering Saint Joseph's
The 95th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fátima was also celebrated 
Departing church
Outside Saint Joseph's
Women's Committee President Tina Carpinelli (Left) with fellow parishioners outside Saint Joseph's
Catching up with friends after Mass 
Making our way back to the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana building
Father Vincent closes the procession with a prayer 
Another look at glorious Saint Rocco
Also see:

Further reading:

October 7, 2012

An Interview with Author Anthony Di Renzo

Anthony Di Renzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

We are honored to have the opportunity to interview Anthony Di Renzo before the release of his new historical novel Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily. Slated for publication in November, 2013 by Guernica Editions, the book chronicles the destruction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the Italian Revolution. He was kind enough to provide us with an advance digital copy, and I'm sure it will become a must read for anyone interested in the nonconformist view of the Risorgimento and Italian Unification.

Mr. Di Renzo is an Associate Professor at Ithaca College, specializing in Classical rhetoric, professional writing and Italian history. He is the author of Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen (SUNY Press, 2010) and has published numerous essays and stories for various literary journals, including "Eternal Death" in Feile-Festa 3 (Spring 2008), "Lucullan Feasts" in River Styx 76: A Readable Feast (Spring 2008) and "Dark Chocolate" in Voices in Italian Americana 19.2 (Spring 2009).

Many Americans of Southern Italian descent are proud of their heritage, but you have made an extra effort to explore it. Could you tell us how your interest in Sicily began and why you pursue it?

My Sicilian mother, steeped in the island’s legends and folklore, first sparked my interest, but I probably never would have investigated Sicilian history if it hadn’t been for my teachers. I don’t mean that in a positive way. When I was growing up, most middle school and junior high teachers thought it a civic duty to make first-generation Americans as ashamed as possible of their ancestral country. Only then would these students become “real” Americans. There was nothing subtle about this indoctrination. “You people weren’t even human until you came to this country!” one teacher declared. This blatant ignorance about the Golden Door period, this contemptuous dismissal of Southern Italian culture, goaded me into uncovering the facts for myself. I’ve been digging ever since. Whitewashed history is a vast tundra. More bodies are buried there than in the Meadowlands.     

Among institutions of higher education, how does Sicily fare within Italian American studies?

Goethe considered Sicily the key to understanding Italy. It is also the key to understanding Italian American history. In both cases, certain characteristics are exaggerated and distorted in startlingly instructive ways. The Risorgimento’s failures in Sicily, too grotesque to ignore, encapsulate and explain Northern Italy’s exploitation and colonization of the entire Mezzogiorno. This calamity directly caused the Southern Italian Diaspora at the turn of the twentieth century.

When you teach Italian American History, what do you emphasize and hope your students understand?

The political, economic, and agricultural collapse of the Mezzogiorno was not a natural phenomenon, no more than Irish potato famine was a natural phenomenon. Both resulted from cruel and arrogant political policies designed to subjugate, even eradicate, a provincial population considered too backwards to benefit the state. That fact explains the impetus behind mass emigration. Northern politicians were quite happy to see Southern peasants leave Italy. It was a form of ethnic cleansing. 

Although Italian businesses and Italian government promoted the New World as the land of opportunity, both treated America as Botany Bay: a place to dump undesirables. We should question, therefore, the conventional myths about immigration and assimilation. These fig leaves cover up the shameful hypocrisies of liberal democracy on both sides of the Atlantic. The betrayal of the Italian Revolution in the late nineteenth century would be repeated by the betrayal of the American Dream in the early twentieth century. 

This double betrayal continues to affect Southern Italian Americans, especially within the Sicilian American community, even in subtle ways among their more assimilated children and grandchildren. Bitter disillusionment explains why many of us can be so insular, continue to suspect all political and educational institutions, and are reluctant to form social and cultural networks, even when they would benefit us. Instead, we should unite, ally ourselves with other ethnic groups, particularly the newest immigrants in Italy and America, and fight for justice at a time when political and financial institutions seem determined to reproduce the imperialism and plutocracy of the early twentieth century. 

What inspired you to write Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily?

A bizarre historical footnote worthy of Leonardo Sciascia. Shortly after Luchino Visconti had filmed The Leopard in Sicily, I was recovering from a nearly fatal bout of dysentery in Villabate, a suburb of Palermo. This was the first time my mother had returned to her hometown since the Second World War. At the time, I was just a boy, battling fever and nausea, but the local gossip distracted and entertained me. Many of my mother’s former neighbors had attended Visconti’s shoot. Some had even worked as extras. Everyone, however, had stories to tell. The most amusing concerned Ciminna, a mountaintop commune 30 miles southeast of Palermo. 

Visconti had used this town as Donnafugata, Prince Fabrizio’s ancestral fief. After the wrap, the mayor and the council had petitioned 20th Century Fox to rebuild the sets. Apparently, the American tourists no longer wanted to see Ciminna’s authentic Greek ruins, a three-thousand-year-old temple to Demeter. Instead, they wanted to pose in front of Burt Lancaster’s fake palazzo and collect autographs.

I had always thought this anecdote was a tall tale, until a documentary on Visconti’s film confirmed it. History, I realized, doesn’t stand a chance against public relations. This insight provided the frame for the novel. Family history and scholarly interest in the Risorgimento supplied the canvas and the paint. Red and gold, of course: the colors of the Sicilian flag. 

When doing the research for Trinàcria, what did you find the most interesting? Was there anything that you would have liked to add that wasn’t included in the book?

It was fascinating to learn how much British and American companies and investors helped to shape the Italian Revolution. Their motives were hardly pure, and their meddling contributed to the debacle that destroyed Sicily. Even today, Sicily lacks a functioning regional economy, thanks partly to this old pattern of internal corruption and external exploitation.

What would have happened, however, if Sicily had achieved independence in 1848? What if it had become a functioning democracy of Sicilians, by Sicilians, and for Sicilians? Either Sicily would have remained a separate country or it would have joined Italy on its own terms. The novel speculates on these questions but never directly addresses them. Ruggeru Sèttimu, president of the Sicilian Republic for sixteen months before his lifelong exile in Malta, barely appears. Even so, these issues are worth considering during the bicentennial of the Sicilian constitution.  

What's next after Trinàcria? Do you have any plans to explore the Abruzzese half of your heritage?

Currently, I’m revising After the Fair is Over, the sequel to Trinàcria. This immigrant saga deals with Donna Zita’s great-grandson, Commendatore Attilio Tumeo, who journeys from his father’s carriage shop in Villabate to the Franklin Automobile Company in Syracuse, New York. Ironically, money from his used car dealership pays to preserve the Marchesa’s crypt in the Catacombe dei Cappuccini.

My last book, Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen (SUNY Press 2010) partly discusses the Abruzzese half of my heritage. But I would like to investigate more fully how this remote of regions, Italy’s Yosemite Park, continues to resist globalization. Gas companies, for example, are trying to introduce fracking. The outcome is uncertain, but I’m betting on the mountain goats.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Any last thoughts?

Eduardo Galeano, a writer I deeply admire, reminds us of the importance of memory. Memory alone can save us from the collective amnesia of postmodern society, a cross between a shopping mall and a concentration camp. We need to wake up from the American Dream before it anaesthetizes our entire planet. Hypnotists have convinced us that all that matters is success. Either you’re somebody or you’re nobody. But instead of trying to be somebodies, Southern Italians and their descendants should embrace being nobodies. We are nobody’s children, owners of nothing. We speak dialects, not language; believe superstitions, not religion; practice handicrafts, not art; have folklore, not culture. We are not human beings but human resources. We do not appear in the world’s history books but in the local tabloids. Nobody will tell our stories but ourselves.

* * *

The following links allow you to visit the book's campaign site and to view its promotional video:

The fundraiser is sponsored by Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere.

For more info visit Anthony Di Renzo

Also see Mr. Di Renzo's interview with the Times of Sicily: "The Past Never Dies — Though God Knows it Tries: An Interview with Anthony Di Renzo"