February 28, 2017

Days of Remembrance in Gaeta, City of Memory

Participants carry the flag blessed in Polignano to the Carlo V Battery
Photos courtesy of the Comitati delle Due Sicilie and Don Massimo Cuofano
By Cav. Charles Sant’Elia
This year the annual events commemorating the siege of Gaeta (February 10-13, 2017), which marked the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, took on added meaning as it also marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Comitati delle Due Sicilie, and included the abundant participation of many groups and associations from the Two Sicilies community. Among the many dedicated Neobourbonists were local Gaeta author Antonio Ciano, Neobourbon movement founding fathers and leaders Gennaro De Crescenzo and Fiore Marro, and the founders of The Francesco II di Borbone Foundation, Don Luciano Rotolo and Don Massimo Cuofano.
The siege of Gaeta began in September 1860 and found the brave people of Gaeta, HM King Francesco II and HM Queen Maria Sofia, the Royal Army, and many brave students of the Nunziatella military academy, united with volunteers, heroically defending the Kingdom in the final battles before its fall. Thus Gaeta forever became the “city of memory,” significant for our people’s identity. Echoing the cry of the Nunziatella students and the volunteers who shouted “We’ll see each other in Gaeta!,” as they departed from around the Kingdom, every year men and women from around the historic territories of the Kingdom gather to honor the fallen and to celebrate the national identity.
The Tiragliatori Borbonici (Bourbon Sharpshooters) led by Captain Alessandro Romano executing the lowering of the flag in honor of the Fallen
This year hundreds of individuals and organized groups decided to bring bricks and stones, as well as soil and flowers from every corner of the former Kingdom and united them to visually and tangibly commemorate the fallen and give back a voice to all those who suffered and died as a consequence of the invasion of the Kingdom, while uniting to build a better future for the descendants of the survivors of that turbulent time.
Don Massimo Cuofano of the Francesco II di Borbone Foundation
presents a brick for Montefalcione
This sizable commemoration was the fruit of much hard work and represented a major step forward in restoring national identity and pride, with so many groups from the various regions united in one common effort. A special flag previously blessed by HRH don Alessandro di Borbone Due Sicilie during the flag blessing celebration held in Polignano, Puglia on December 11, 2016, and which covered the altar during mass, was flown over Gaeta. In agreement with all of the Two Sicilies groups and movements, under the aegis of the Francesco II di Borbone Foundation and its clergy members, the National Flag was blessed at a mass commemorating all of the deceased members of the Royal House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies as a sign of unity with the Royal House of the Bourbon of the Two Sicilies and its head, HRH Prince Carlo di Borbone delle Due Sicilie, Duca di Castro, the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, and all friends and supporters.
Fiore Marro of the Movimento Neoborbonico
presents a brick for Fagnano Castello
On February 10, 2017 by the late morning the city of Gaeta’s streets were filled with Two Sicilies flags as hundreds went to attend the Convention, with local historical writer Antonio Ciano in the forefront and on the walls of the city. Stands and booths with informational flyers and books, prints and pictures were set out for visitors. At 5:00 pm all of the various groups gathered together to present their initiatives and undertakings, coordinated by Prof. Gennaro de Crescenzo.
Chiara Foti presents a brick for Palermo
February 11, 2017, Our Lady of Lourdes feast day, also holds special significance for the people of the Two Sicilies who show devotion to the Immaculate Conception, including King Francesco II, who felt himself drawn to Lourdes, where he went twice on pilgrimage. Many participants also enjoyed guided tours that morning, such as the Angevin Castle and sites in the heart of the Fortress of Gaeta, where the two beloved Monarchs lead the defense of the city and of the Kingdom. A second guided tour included the local churches and neighborhoods. There was also a presentation of the book “Il Reggimento Real Marina” by Salvatore Carreca.
A stirring moment of the afternoon occurred when the various groups gathered in the piazza in front of the Serapo Hotel to begin the pilgrimage to the upper part of the Carlo V Battery, with hundreds of raised flags joining the flag blessed in Polignano, which was carried by two delegates of the Francesco II Foundation, a girl from the Neobourbon Movement, a woman from the Movimento Duosiciliano and a young man from the Comitati Due Sicilie. This pilgrimage was led by Pino Aprile, who was the promoter of this initiative whereby the first bricks of the “Monument for the Memory of the Peoples of the Two Sicilies” were lovingly brought to Gaeta. Upon these bricks were inscribed the names of the many cities destroyed during the occupation and sacking of the invading Piedmontese army. During the placing of the bricks the anthem of the Two Sicilies by Paisiello was performed by the Real Cappella Napolitana. Verses dedicated to the homeland written by Roman Delegate Carlangelo Schillimà Chiarandà were added to the anthem.
Flowers and earth from across the south
were placed on the future site of the monument
Before the placing of the bricks, the actor Angelantonio Aversana read excerpts about all of the destroyed cities from Pino Aprile’s last book Carnefici. All of the delegates and friends of the South from all of the associations and movements then placed their bricks and flowers on the future site of the monument. The ceremony concluded with Father Massimo Cuofano and Father Luciano Rotolo of the Francis II Foundation blessing the bricks, and the Tiragliatori Borbonici (Bourbon Sharpshooters) led by Captain Alessandro Romano executing the lowering of the flag in honor of the Fallen.
At 5:30 in the evening in the banquet hall of the Hotel Serapo, the convention dedicated to the topic of “From Memory to Identity” began. Gennaro De Crescenzo coordinated the work on this meeting. Nobile attorney Franco Ciufo of the Associazione Italiana Cavalieri Costantiniani greeted the participants and authorities present before the presentations.
Honoring the memory of the fallen with song
Pino Aprile presented reflections upon the meaning of the “Un Mattone e un Fiore” (A Brick and a Flower) event; Marina Carrese of the publishing house “Il Giglio” presented the special re-edition of the work on the history of the Two Sicilies by Giacinto De’ Sivo, reporting on the theme: “De’ Sivo and the memory of the South;” Fiore Marro president of the Comitati Due Sicilie addressed the “places of remembrance;” Pino Marino of Daunia Due Sicilie, presented “Briganti, memories and film”. This interesting convention was enriched by the presence of Eddy Napoli, who sang several of his songs, including the well-known “Malaunità.” The evening concluded with a performance by compatriot Povia, with his moving “A Sud.”
The evening concluded with the Comitati Due Sicilie (Two Sicilies Committees) celebrating their first 10 years with a banquet and the personal greetings of President Fiore Marro, who also presented awards of recognition. The Real Cappella Napolitana also performed the National Anthem and several Neapolitan villanelles.
Bricks from towns throughout the south
The third and final day, Sunday February 12th, was celebrated as a moment of faith and commemoration. At 9:30 in the morning participants gathered at the Santuario della Montagna Spaccata, where Holy Mass was celebrated by Don Natalino Di Rienzo, who in his homily discussed the Gospel roots of our need for truth also in the remembrance of those who gave their lives to defend the Fatherland and the Faith. Don Luciano Rotolo and Don Masssimo Cuofano concelebrated. After Mass Avv. Franco Ciufo, recalled the defenders of Gaeta in 1860-61 and thanked the numerous participants. Don Massimo Cuofano, after a brief introduction, led the prayer for the beatification of HM Francesco II of Bourbon Two Sicilies.
Before leaving the Church Don Luciano Rotolo delivered to the Bourbon squadron the flag blessed in Polignano by Don Alessandro di Borbone, and the participants returned to the “Batteria Carlo V,” for the raising of the flag, in honor of the heroes of Gaeta, to remind all that the Homeland of the Two Sicilies is ever present and alive. With this the commemoration events concluded and the participants bid each other farewell, agreeing to reconvene next year.
The participants and Il Regno extend heartfelt thanks to HRH Prince Carlo di Borbone Due Sicilie, who himself sent thanks to the organizers and participants (see addendum below), the Associazione Nazionale dei Cavalieri Costantiniani d’Italia, author Pino Aprile, Gennaro De Crescenzo and the Movimento Neoborbonico, the Fondazione il Giglio, Fiore Marro and the members of the Comitati Due Sicilie, Michele Ladisa and the Movimento Duosiciliano, the Zavaglia brothers and the Gioiosa Jonica group, Captain Alessandro Romano and the Rete Due Sicilie, Davide Brandi and the Lazzari e Briganti group, the Daunia Due Sicilie group, the “Le Ali di Checco” association, Carlo Capezzuto, Matteo Vaia of the Bottega delle Due Sicilie, Two Sicilies fashion stylist Salvatore Argenio and his wife Annamaria Pisapia, the choral group Real Cappella Napolitana, Angelantonio Aversana, Eddy Napoli and Giuseppe Povia, and the numerous members of the participating organizations, friends and supporters of the Two Sicilies community.
Addendum: Translated thank-you letter from HRH Prince Carlo di Borbone Due Sicilie
To the Movimento Neobornico
To the Mayor of the Comune di Gaeta and to the Authorities and mayors present
To the Fondazione Il Giglio
To the Comitati Due Sicilie
To Dr. Pino Aprile
To the Associations that have participated in the Days of Remembrance:
Fondazione Francesco II di Borbone, Daunia Due Sicilie, Tesori dell’Arte, Osservatorio delle Due Sicilie, Meridem, Milites Luci, Imago Historiae, Terraurunca, Passato e Futuro Onlus, Ilnuovsud.it, Rete delle Due Sicilie, Comitato Studi Storici Meridionali, Associazione Due Siclie Gioiosa Jonica, Terroni di Pino Aprile, Siamo Tutti Briganti, Rivista Il Brigante, Briganti della Magna Grecia, Parlamentoduesicilie.it, Lazzari e Briganti, Le Ali di Checco, Bottega delle Due Sicilie, MBL Musicisti Basso Lazio, Agorà di Volcei Buccino. 
Memory is a fundamental part of entire communities and of entire populations. In not just Italian history memory has been and is the basis of the success of those communities and those populations.

For this reason the manifestation underway in Gaeta, the Day of Remembrance of the 13 February with the celebrations of these days and the monument to history’s vanquished and for the Two Sicilies are important and not just from the cultural aspect.

My family, in the memory of the heroes of Gaeta the day that you are all celebrating, greets with affection the organizers and participants. In the hope of continuing, also together, this precious rebuilding of memories and of pride as a symbol of historical truth, of mutual respect, and of the sharing of values and of traditions ever so current.

In the certainty that memory, thanks to all of you and to work carried out in these years, is finally “finding again its pages, its dates and its places” and from there future generations could set out towards a future ever more worthy of our great past.
Duke of Castro

Lenten Recollection Missa Cantata in Rockaway Beach, New York

Celebrate St. Joseph's Day at Cacio e Vino in New York City

Photo courtesy of Experience Sicily
Sunday March 19, 2017 @ 2PM–5PM ($55)
Cacio e Vino
80 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Bring the whole family to celebrate St. Joseph's Day or La Festa di San Giuseppe! 
San Giuseppe, or Saint Joseph, is one of the most venerated saints south of Rome. The spouse of the Virgin Mary and the guardian-father of Jesus, he is regarded as the patron saint of fathers, carpenters, and those who toil for their work. 
In the 10th century, a drought caused a severe famine. Devotees of Saint Joseph prayed to him to bring rain, and in return, they promised to hold a feast in his honor. Rain and recovery from hunger did come, and since then, the ritualistic feast of Saint Joseph has been celebrated. 
In addition to lunch, there will be a short concert of Sicilian folk songs and folk music presented by the duo Villa Palagonia and a discussion about Saint Joseph and the feast day traditions presented by Allison Scola of Experience Sicily.
Niki Masino Gelsomino of Gelsomino Imports, LLC will have artisanal products from Sicily for sale. 
Read more about Saint Joseph's Day.
For more info visit Celebrate St. Joseph's Day in New York City with a Prix-fixe Lunch on Facebook

February 27, 2017

Feast of San Gabriele dell’Addolorata

Evviva San Gabriele!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
February 27th is the Feast Day of San Gabriele dell’Addolorata (Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows), Passionist of the Holy Cross. Protector of the Abruzzo Region of southern Italy, he is also the Patron Saint of students, clerics and young people.
To commemorate the occasion I’m posting a Prayer to Saint Gabriel. The accompanying photo was taken at St. Francis of Paola Church (219 Conselyea Street) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Prayer to Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
O Good Saint Gabriel, God inspired you to see the Passion of Jesus as it was reflected in the heart of Mary His Mother. By her side you stood beneth the cross of Jesus, gazing on Him as she did and learning the meaning of love. O Saint Gabriel, we wish, like you, to grow in love for God and all God’s people. Remember us in our trials, remember especially those who are young. Support us by your prayers all our days. And when this life is done may we join you in heaven in the company of Jesus and Mary. Amen.

St. Padre Pio Healing Mass for the Sick and Infirm of Body, Mind and Spirit in Newark, New Jersey

Primi al Cinema: Live Accompaniment Screening of Assunta Spina (1915)

Francesca Bertini in Assunta Spina
March 3, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò
New York University
24 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011

This screening is part of Primi al Cinema, a new Casa Italiana series dedicated to debut films, American and New York premieres and other cinematographic novelties from and about Italy.

Assunta Spina (1915)
Silent, Italy, 71 min.

Directed by Francesca Bertini, Gustavo Serena
Based on the novel by Salvatore di Giacomo
Starring Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena

With Live Musical Accompaniment
Presenting the World Premiere of an original new score composed by John T. La Barbera

Performed by:
John T. La Barbera, guitar and mandolin
Susan Aquila, violin
Wilson Montuori, guitar

Based on Salvatore Di Giacomo’s novel, Assunta Spina was filmed on location in Naples in 1914 and was produced and released by Caesar Film in 1915 in Italy. It features the queen of Italian silent screen Francesca Bertini, who is credited with directing the film together with her co-star, Gustavo Serena. As soon as the film opens with Assunta, played by Bertini against the background of the Bay of Naples, an operatic tale of love and sacrifice unfolds and we meet a strong working class woman in turn of the century Naples. Faced with the harsh realities of violence, jealousy and corruption she preserves her dignity while struggling to survive. Bertini’s performance set a new standard for Italian cinema. Filmed on location in Naples.

La Barbera ‘s score, arranged for violin, mandolin and guitar, creates an intimate atmosphere by keeping an accompaniment of emotions found in the melodic themes of the characters in a leitmotif style to highlight the melodramatic and picturesque style of the film. As the film captures glimpses of life on the streets of Naples, references to popular traditional music can be seen in the background shots. From dancing the polka accompanied by serenading musicians to pastoral shepherds playing bagpipes for Christmas, he presents a glimpse into this period by using the rhythms of tarantella, polka, tango, waltzes, and pastoral serenades, to enhance the realism surrounding the circumstances of Assunta’s tragic and passionate story.

February 26, 2017

Music and Voices Concert Series at Most Precious Blood Church in NYC’s Historic Little Italy

John T. La Barbera and Nando Citarella with San Gennaro
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Since the closing of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy and the shortening of church hours (doors now close at 6pm), my visits to the Shrine Church of Most Precious Blood in NYC’s historic Little Italy has been considerably reduced. So when I had the opportunity to attend the church’s monthly “Music & Voices” concert series Thursday evening, I jumped at the opportunity. 
As always, our pal Bill Russo was a gracious host
Master of Ceremonies and organizer Bill Russo warmly welcomed guests and kicked off the festivities with a brief, but interesting, talk about the history of the church and neighborhood.  
(L-R) Michelle DellaFave, Aviva Jaye, Katherine Appello and Kim Kalesti
Multi talented Music Director Kim Kalesti was joined by vocalists Katherine Appello, Aviva Jaye and Michelle DellaFave. The ensemble sang “I’m just gonna to share my love with you" and "It wasn’t nobody's fault.”
Musician-singer-actor-folklorist-teacher Nando Citarella
As luck would have it, the incomparable Nando Citarella was visiting from Italy with his family and joined headliners John T. La Barbera and Jennifer Stigliani-Bowen onstage for the highly anticipated show. 
Internationally renowned guitar virtuoso John T. La Barbera
John and Jennifer began their set with a fantastic rendition of the ancient Greek “Seikilos Epitaph,” or “Song of Seikilos.” Dating from the first century, it is the oldest known complete musical composition.
Vocalist Jennifer Stigliani-Bowen also played the zither and castanets
The trio performed several traditional folk songs from southern Italy, including the lively “Tamapizzicà” and, my favorite, “A San Michè.”
Nando and John
The musicians’ passion and skill–combined with Most Precious Blood’s fine acoustics and intimacy–made for one magnificent show. I feel blessed to have been there. 
After the show, performers and organizers took a well-deserved bow
Afterward, musicians and guests mingled and enjoyed some lite fare in the rectory. Production costs were generously paid for by event sponsor Umberto's Clam House.
Singer-songwriter Allison Scola joins friends Nando, Bill, John and Jennifer
Also see:
• Most Precious Blood Church: An Appreciation

Photo of the Week: San Michele Arcangelo, Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), Napoli

San Michele Arcangelo, Scultore Napoletano, early 16th Century, Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino), Napoli. Photo by New York Scugnizzo

Announcing the 2017 Festa di San Giuseppe in Ridgewood, New York

February 25, 2017

Una voce per l'eta!

Enrico Caruso – The King of Tenors
Enrico Caruso
Courtesy of The Enrico Caruso Museum
By Niccolò Graffio
“When you speak of tenors you have to divide them into two groups. Caruso is in the first group and all the others are in the second.” – Rosa Ponselle (legendary soprano) 
A frequent criticism of mine in previous articles I have written for this blog is the number of our people (and they are legion) who have made their mark on history but who nevertheless are virtual unknowns in the collective minds of the American public.  This is due for a number of reasons including American attitudes towards Italians (especially Southern Italians) as well as the shabby quality of the American educational system.  On the rare occasion one of our people does manage to become famous here, it is usually a gangster like Al Capone or Carlo “Lucky” Luciano. The American love of criminals and criminality comes into play here.
Despite these hurdles a people as resourceful and creative as ours will rise to the challenge and occasionally produce figures that will nevertheless captivate the imaginations of even Americans.  It has been said you are truly famous (or infamous) when people know you by just one name.  Many of these figures immediately come to mind – Einstein, Newton, Beethoven, Mozart, Shakespeare, etc. I’m sure if you, dear reader, think about it for a minute you can come up with many more names. Continue reading

The Good Italian

Benedetto Croce: The “Soul” of Italy
Benedetto Croce
By Niccolò Graffio
“Unless a capacity for thinking be accompanied by a capacity for action, a superior mind exists in torture.” – Benedetto Croce
Benedetto Croce was born in Pescasseroli in the Abruzzi region in the ruins of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on February 25, 1866. The disaster which befell his homeland did not have much of an impact on his family, as they were people of considerable wealth. The Croce family had so much wealth, in fact, that from the day of his birth to the day of his death, Benedetto Croce never had to engage in any form of manual labor in order to survive. In that, he differed considerably from most of his countrymen.
Devout Roman Catholics, his parents sent him at an early age to Naples to be schooled in the tenets of their religion. By the time he reached mid-adolescence, however, Croce had decided he had no use for Catholicism, or any religion, for that matter, preferring instead a type of spiritualism of his own making to which he adhered for the remainder of his life. In 1883, while on vacation with his family in the village of Casamicciola, Ischia, a strong earthquake struck the area, destroying the home they were living in and tragically killing his parents and sister. He was buried (severely injured) under the rubble for several hours until rescuers were able to free him. Continue reading

First Sunday of Lent Traditional Latin Mass in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn

Holy Name of Jesus Church, 245 Prospect Park West
in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn

February 24, 2017

Il Cavaliere Calabrese

Mattia Preti, the Knight from Calabria
Saint John the Baptist Preaching
Photos 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.