January 27, 2022

The Francone Princes of Ripabottoni in the Contado di Molise

A new and unique study of the Neapolitan nobility and Molise has been published by researcher Gabriella Paduano and parish priest Don Gabriele Tamilia: I Principi Francone nel Contado di Molise, with a preface by the Bishop of Trivento Mons. Claudio Palumbo and Dr. Francesca Carnevale of the University of Molise. This book, rich in fresh research and analysis offers an engaging new look at the intersection of the grand Southern nobility, eighteenth century art patronage, local genius and creativity and education in the Molise region, and the centuries long rapport not only between the princely Francone family which greatly loved the land of Ripabottoni, but also the complex and cyclical relationship between the Molisan province and the capital Naples. Scholars, specialists and laymen alike will enjoy this well documented work, with thorough bibliographical notes and many original photographs and copies of documents.
Il principe Paolo Francone
Paduano and Tamilia take the reader deep into the origins of this vanishing world and the men and women of the Kingdom of Naples and later the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, who left a lasting mark in Italian history. Since the unification of Italy, the ancient Contado di Molise has unfortunately been relegated to the status of a little known rural region, picturesque and full of millennia of antiquities, but which suffered from depopulation and little investment. Indeed the region was quickly placed into the Abruzzo region and was later made its own region in 1963. Ironically, the region has become appreciated mainly by foreign tourists and some returning emigrants and expats who have begun to reinvest in it. Within this largely unknown region, features the Terra di Ripa, the “Land of Ripa," which has become even less known to outsiders. Equally ironic, given the small territory has produced per capita more numerous notable people than larger areas. It has produced not only members of one of the greatest noble families in Italy, but also great scholars, artists, poets, and doctors such as Cav. Pietro Ramaglia, one of the court physicians to King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. Its artists and artisans were frequently in demand in the city of Naples to decorate the great townhouses and villas of prominent Neapolitans. Its merchants and laborers built great fortunes in the Americas.

Cardinale Tommaso Ruffo
Ripabottoni, whose name has changed over the centuries (in former times it was variously referred to as “Ripa Gottorum,” “Ripalibottuni,” and “Ripabrettone” 1), often simply referred to as “Ripa,” is a small town in the modern province of Campobasso, Molise. Ripa was for millennia a commercial center and crossroads of transhumance and numerous ancient fairs such as the horse-trading fair. The town and surrounding country fiefdom passed to the Francone family, who so loved it and invested in it and its people, renamed it Ripafrancone and obtained royal approval to elevate it from a marquisate to a principality and to have their predicate title changed to “Princes of Ripafrancone.” This was no mere act of vanity. It solidified the noble family’s dedication to the well-being of the town, fostering charity, patronage and opportunity for the area. The fiefdom previously belonged to the Castropignano, Avalerio, di Capua, Carafa and Acquaviva families, who over the centuries fortified the area and curated its industries, including grain trading, horse trading, silk works and several private schools and school masters.

Ritratto di mons. G.A. Tria,
Vescovo di Larino
The Francone are one of the oldest families of the Neapolitan nobility and were members of the Seggio di Montagna in Naples, traditionally the Seggio of the provincial lords (the noble Seggi being the ancient Parliament of the Kingdom). Indeed, the Seggio was formerly known as the Seat of Francone because it convened in their palace. The roots of the Francone are lost in time, and one genealogy ascribes their descent from a Gaulish king around the year 500. In any case they were clearly prominent consistently since the 1300s and have intermarried with the most prominent families in the Kingdom of Naples and some from abroad. In the 1400s Oliviero Francone, the Baron of Taurisano, was one of King Ladislao of Durazzo’s generals and his sister Andronica was the wife of Skanderbeg. Gian Giacomo Dell’Acaya, the Engineer General of the Kingdom under Emperor Charles V was a Francone via his mother Maria Francone. 

Francesco Solimena, “San Michele Arcangelo”,
Chiesa di S. Maria Assunta, Ripabottoni (Cb)
The Francone held feudal possessions in Salcito, Torella del Sannio and Pietracupa as well as Ripa and maintained a palace in Naples. The Francone were loyal to the cadet branch of the House of Anjou and their ancestors are well documented since the 1300s.  As other great feudal families in the Molise region fell into decline, others such as the Francone expanded and acquired more feudal lands. The branch of the Francone which were affirmed barons in the Terra d’Otranto, settled in Molise in the 1600s and dominated Ripa. Francesco Francone sought to reside mostly in Salcito and establish a baronial court life focused in Molise rather than Naples. Francesco later amplified the ancient baronial castle of Ripa into a modernized palace which became the princely seat of the family in the Molise countryside. His first born son Don Paolo Francone became his heir and the Prince of Ripa in 1742 and resided there with his wife Ippolita Ruffo di Bagnara e Castelcicala, of the famous noble Calabrian family which produced two well-known cardinals and which played a major role in the Kingdom for generations. Four of their ten children were born in Ripa. Tommaso Maria Francone became Bishop of Umbriatico and Archbishop of Manfredonia, and his son Giuseppe Antonio Francone became Minister of the Order of Malta. Gennaro Clemente Francone served as bishop in Cosenza, Gaeta and Troja.

Mons. Gennaro Clemente Francone,
Arcivescovo, prima di Cosenza,
poi di Gaeta, infine di Troia
Paolo Francone was known to be a free-spirited young man with a taste for luxury, but he was a gifted intellectual who went on to pursue poetry, theology and philosophy and charitable and entrepreneurial work. He published his own lyrical poetry and translated Descartes’s works from French. He personally frequented the philosopher Giambattista Vico and Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori. He also oversaw archeological digs in Ripa and environs.

Prince Paolo and Princess Ippolita had a particular devotion to Saint Michael and sponsored paintings of the Saint and a chapel and hermitage dedicated to Saint Michael Archangel outside the town of Ripa (devotion to Saint Michael has deep roots in the Molise and overlapping Capitanata region of Puglia). The also build a chapel to Saint James. With Monsignor Tria they also established a small monastery of nuns in Ripa. The relic of Saint Rocco, co-patron of Ripa, in the main Church of Santa Maria Assunta, was likewise donated by Prince Paolo. Don Giacomo Francone, the titular Bishop of Sidon (Lebanon), who resided in the Palazzo Francone in Ripa authenticated the relics of Saint Faustus, Saint Venerandus and Saint Modestus which are all contained in the Church built by Prince Paolo.

Mons. Tommaso Francone,
dipinto conservato nel Museo
Diocesano di Manfredonia (Fg)
Paduano and Tamilia take the reader back in time through an examination of Prince Paolo Francone, one of the greatest exponents of the family. A published poet and devout Catholic, Prince Paolo and his wife Ippolita Ruffo di Bagnara e Castelcicala built the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, which was designed by his friend Ferdinando Sanfelice, also a member of the old Neapolitan-Molisan nobility. Prince Paolo and Sanfelice were also friends with Mons. Giovanni Andrea Tria, who authored the noted work Memorie storiche civili, ed ecclesiastiche della Città e Diocesi di Larino published in Rome in 1754. The Prince brought native Ripese artist Paolo Gamba into contact with the famed studio of the great Solimena, and Gamba lovingly decorated the new Church in Ripa. In fact, Don Paolo and his friend Ferdinando Sanfelice studied painting under Francesco Solimena when they were boys.

Sadly after centuries of glory, the Francone family became extinct after Giovanni Francone, the last Prince died, and survived indirectly in its last heirs, the Caracciolo di Torchiarolo family as the estates and titles passed to his nephew, the son of his sister Maria Imara. With the advent of modernity and evolving economic and political pressures upon the old nobility, the property and estates in Ripa were put up for auction in 1844 on the eve of Italian unification. Within a few decades much of the real estate was purchased by emergent bourgeois families, including the ancient baronial palace itself in Ripa. In the new environment patronage of the arts and schools ceased and courtly life and commerce disappeared, relegating the region to rural obscurity and increasing poverty. The two chapels built by the Francone were destroyed, and as occurred in many places, the territory witnessed armed clashes between royalists and Garibaldi supporters during the Piedmontese occupation, and the first mass emigration to large cities as well as to foreign countries began.

Corpo di San Crescenzo, chiesa Santa Maria Assunta, Ripabottoni (Cb)
This is truly an unicum in studies which offer a window into the true history of the Molise region and its rapport with the greater world. Making this work yet more compelling is the fact that is the product of thousands of hours of research conducted in person by Paduano and Tamilia not only in Ripabottoni, but also in the state and diocesan archives in Larino, Campobasso and Naples, at their own expense without any commission or sponsorship to do so. It is an act of love for their native land and the culture and faith that have sustained it for centuries. This dynamic team has presented their work in Ripabottoni on July 17, 2021 in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, fittingly given the important works created by Paolo Gamba and other native artists under the patronage of the Francone, was to present the book in the Maschio Angioino in Naples in January 2022, but had to postpone due to pandemic conditions. The two are looking forward holding such a ceremony later in 2022. This work is an invitation to revisit and rediscover a heritage and legacy which was suppressed and obfuscated for such a long time.

About the Authors:


Gabriella Paduano was born in Molise in Termoli (CB) in 1976, after graduating high school she earned a degree in Modern Letters with a major in art history at the Università G. D’ Annunzio di Chieti. The subject of her degree thesis was  La pittura del 500 nel Molise [“Sixteenth Century painting in Molise”], her adviser was the well-known art historian Prof. Daniele Benati.


She is a specialist in the management of cultural heritage, through a masters degree, of the European Union and Molise Region.


She has worked for a communications firm with various responsibilities, and was a journalist at the  Il Tempo newspaper, and as a museum operator at the Museo del Quadrilatero in San Salvo, the Museo delle Genti di Abruzzo, the Museo di Arte Contemporanea Macte in Termoli.


An expert on local history and the art of her own region, she was also a guide for artistic itineraries in Molise and Abruzzo, she also has organized cultural events, such as the Gaeta sea fair I Sanniti e il mare [“The Samnites and the Sea”] nel 2016 and San Rocco in Arte [“Saint Rocco in Art”] in Ripabottoni in 2021. She has also participated in dialect poetry contests, having won first place. 


She currently teaches Italian language and literature.


In 2021 she published with Don Gabriele Tamilia the history book I Principi Francone nel Contado di Molise, Campobasso, Palladino Editore.


She is preparing with Don Gabriele Tamila, the publication of a book on a key figure in the history of Italian medicine, Cav. Dr Pietro Ramaglia  (Ripabottoni 1802-Napoli 1875), a doctor at the Bourbon court, clinician at the Ospedale degli Incurabili in Naples, and founder of topographic anatomy.


She is also organizing a museum at the Parish of  Santa Maria Assunta in Ripabottoni and a photographic exhibit in the Cappuccilli palace of Ripabottoni.


Don Gabriele Tamilia was born in Ripabottoni (Campobasso) 10 February 1943, and was ordained a priest in the Church of S. Maria Assunta in Ripabottoni 3 August 1968 by Archbishop Loris Capovilla, Secretary of Pope John XXIII. 


He is pastor of the parishes of Provvidenti, Casacalenda, Morrone del Sannio and Ripabottoni; rector of the diocesan Santuario della Madonna della Difesa in Casacalenda; and regional assistant for Abruzzo and Molise of Azione Cattolica and of the Professori Cattolici del Molise. 


He teaches history, philosophy, psychology and pedagogy, Italian, Latin, and geography in the state high schools. He is Professor of Philosophy and Theology in the Istituto di Scienze Religiose of the Dioceses of Termoli-Larino and of Campobasso; and Professor of Theology in the Department of Medicine and Surgery of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore “Agostino Gemelli.” 


Fr. Tamilia is also the founder and director of the bulletin “L’Informatore Parrocchiale;” founder, president and editorial director of the television broadcast which serves Molise and part of Abruzzo; and freelance journalist of the Ordine Nazionale dei Giornalisti del Molise.


His religious oriented hobbies are: founder and director of a folkloristic group, of a polyphonic choir with a small orchestra, author and director of theater plays.


~ By Cav. Charles Sant’Elia


Notes:

1 Several other variations exist as well, and much has been written about the descriptive designations added to “Ripa”. It appears to have been first mentioned in the famous Norman catalogue of territories and other documents from the 1100s. The area has yielded Greek and Roman artifacts and was continuously inhabited for millennia.


Essential Bibliography/Further Reading

Gabriella Paduano and Gabriele Tamilia, I Principi Francone nel Contado di Molise, Ripalimosani, Editrice Lampo, 2021

January 26, 2022

The Bronze Doors of the Maschio Angioino

Detail from the Battle of Accadia showing King Ferrante with his knights
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
The bronze doors at the main portal of the Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep)[1] in Naples chronicle the victory of King Ferrante d’Aragona (Ferdinand I of Naples) over Jean d’Anjou, Duke of Lorraine, and the rebel barons in 1462. Adorned with decorative frames and medallions, the detailed bas-relief panels depict the war’s most significant battles.
Ferrante is ambushed at Calvi
The "Mars-mighty" King and his attendants fight off the attackers

The door's top two panels recount the failed attempt on Ferrante’s life by the traitorous Prince Marino Marzano and his henchmen at Calvi. The assassins escaped, but their poisoned dagger was discovered. Inscriptions in Latin read: “The prince with Jacopo and the deceitful Deifobo; they simulate a conference so that the king may be slain” and “The Mars-mighty king, more spirited than famous Hector, probed with his shining blade, that the plot might perish.”[2]

The Battle at Accadia
Ferrante is victorious and the Angevin take flight
The middle scenes show the Aragonese victory over the Angevins at the Battle at Accadia in Puglia accompanied by the text “The Trojan Ferrante conquered the enemy in the field as Caesar conquered Pompey at Oechalia.” [ibid]
The Battle at Troia
Ferrante's triumphal entry into Troia
The bottom panels depict the Battle at Troia in Puglia and concludes with the inscription: “Troia gave rest to our side, and an end to the labor, in which place the enemy shed much blood and was routed.” [ibid]
The original doors can be found inside the Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo
The original bronze doors made by Guglielmo Lo Monaco circa 1474-75 can be found inside the Museo Civico di Castel Nuovo in Naples. Curiously, an iron canon-ball is embedded in the bottom left panel. 
Decorative device with ermine and Ferrante's motto Probanda,
meaning tried, tested, approved or most worthy [ibid]
Apparently after the sack of Naples in 1495 by King Charles VIII of France, the doors were hauled off as booty. During the return march through hostile territories, the French were set upon by the Holy League, a multi-state alliance formed by Pope Alexander VI to counter French ascendancy in Italy. Though Charles and the bulk of his army were able to escape, his ships laden with the spoils of war were captured off the coast of Genoa and the damaged doors were returned to Naples.[3]
Two examples of the ornamental motifs that adorn the frames

Maschio Angioino, or Angevin Keep (also called Castel Nuovo), Napoli

~ Giovanni di Napoli, January 13, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Bibliography/Notes: 

[1] The Maschio Angioino, also known as the Castel Nuovo (New Castle), is a Medieval castle founded in 1279 by King Charles of Anjou (Charles I of Naples). The Aragonese triumphal arch and cenotaph were added in the fifteenth century by King Alfonso the Magnanimous (Alfonso I of Naples, Alfonso V of Aragon and Sicily). It is located next to the port in Naples.


[2] Collecting Art in the Italian Renaissance Court: Objects and Exchanges, Leah R. Clark, Cambridge University Press, 2018


[3] Bronze Door, Comune.napoli.it


Further Reading:

The Aragonese Arch at Naples, 1443-1475, George L. Hersey, Yale University Press, 1973

January 25, 2022

Feast of the Conversion of San Paolo Apostolo

San Paolo Apostolo, ora pro nobis
January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of San Paolo (Saint Paul), Apostle and Martyr. Widely venerated across Southern Italy, he is the principal patron of Aversa (CE), Solarino (SR), Palazzolo Acreide (SR), Seclì (LE), and Casale di Carinola (CE), among others. In celebration, we're posting a prayer to St. Paul. The accompanying photo was taken outside Saint Paul RCC in Philadelphia, PA. Evviva San Paolo Apostolo!

Prayer to St. Paul

O Glorious St. Paul, after persecuting the Church you became by God's grace its most zealous Apostle. To carry the knowledge of Jesus, our divine Savior, to the uttermost parts of the earth you joyfully endured prison, scourging, stoning, and shipwreck, as well as all manner of persecutions culminating in the shedding of the last drop of your blood for our Lord Jesus Christ. Obtain for us the grace to labor strenuously to bring the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that may come our way. Help us to be inspired by your Epistles and to partake of your indomitable love for Jesus, so that after we have finished our course we may join you in praising him in heaven for all eternity. Amen

Novena to San Biagio Martire

San Biagio Martire, ora pro nobis

Prayers compiled by Rev. Bonaventure, O.F.M. to be recited for nine consecutive days, January 25th — February 2nd, in preparation for the Feast on February 3rd.


Preparatory Prayer


Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following his example imitate, like him, the life of Thy divine Son.

Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through him I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saying, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of St. Blase

O God, deliver us through the intercession of Thy holy bishop and martyr Blase, from all evil of soul and body, especially from all ills of the throat; and grant us the grace to make a good confession in the confident hope of obtaining Thy pardon, and ever to praise with worthy lips Thy most holy name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Invocation of St. Blase

St. Blase, gracious benefactor of mankind and faithful servant of God, who for the love of our Saviour didst suffer so many tortures with patience and resignation; I invoke thy powerful intercession. Preserve me from all evils of soul and body. Because of thy great merits God endowed thee with the special grace to help those that suffer from ills of the throat; relieve and preserve me from them, so that I may always be able to fulfil my duties, and with the aid of God's grace perform good works. I invoke thy help as special physician of souls, that I may confess my sins sincerely in the holy sacrament of Penance and obtain their forgiveness. I recommend to thy merciful intercession also those who unfortunately concealed a sin in confession. Obtain for them the grace to accuse themselves sincerely and contritely of the sin they concealed, of the sacrilegious confessions and communions they made, and of all the sins they committed since then, so that they may receive pardon, the grace of God, and the remission of the eternal punishment. Amen.


Prayer


My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

* For more on St. Blase and the Fourteen Holy Helpers, I highly recommend Project Gutenberg's free ebook, Mary, Help of Christians and the Fourteen Saints Invoked as Holy Helpers, compiled by Rev. Bonaventure, O.F.M. It has instructions, legends, novenas and prayers, with thoughts of the saints for every day of the year. Photo of the stained glass window of St. Blase inside St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Paterson, New Jersey courtesy of Anthony Scillia.

Infant Jesus of Prague Chaplet

On the 25th of every month, devotees of the Divine Infancy should pray the Chaplet of the Infant Jesus of Prague, which includes three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys in celebration of the Holy Family and the first twelve years of Our Lord’s childhood. The Chaplet was composed by Venerable Sister Marguerite Parigot of the Blessed Sacrament (March 6, 1590—May 24, 1660), a Discalced Carmelite nun with a strong devotion to the Christ Child. Pleased with the devotion, Our Lord revealed Himself to Sister Marguerite and promised special graces to all who piously recite the Chaplet. In 1855 Pope Pius IX granted an Indulgence of 300 days, applicable to the Poor Souls in Purgatory, for its devout recitation.* In celebration, I’m posting the Infant Jesus of Prague Chaplet. The accompanying photo is my late paternal Grandmother's statue the Infant Jesus of Prague. It came into my possession after my father's passing and is now a treasured part of my private oratory.

Infant Jesus of Prague Chaplet

Divine Infant Jesus, I adore Thy Cross and I accept all the crosses Thou wilt be pleased to send me. Adorable Trinity, I offer Thee for the glory of Thy Holy Name of God, all the adorations of the Sacred Heart of the Holy Infant Jesus.

(3x) “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” and pray The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)

(12x) “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” and pray The Angelical Salutation (Hail Mary)

Holy Infant Jesus, bless and protect us. Amen.


Further reading:
* www.sistersofcarmel.com

January 23, 2022

A Look at the Third Annual King Louis XVI of France Memorial Dinner

Revelers with flags of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Domine salvum fac Regem et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te. Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.[1]

Portrait of King Louis XVI of France
For the third year in a row, members and friends of the Fratelli della Santa Fede (Sanfedisti for short) broke bread in memory of His Majesty Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre. Like last year, our fête was held at Joe’s of Ave U (287 Ave. U) in Gravesend, Brooklyn, but instead of doing it on the day (Jan. 21) we moved the dinner up from Friday to Thursday so guests could eat meat. As is our custom, we included several nearby memorials in our opening prayers and toasts.[2]

Warmly welcomed by Paolo, Caterina and the rest of the friendly and attentive wait staff, our party were treated to another amazing meal replete with Sicilian specialties, including panelle, cavolfiore alla palermitana and purpittuni (polpettone), a delicious meat roll stuffed with ham and peas, smothered in a mushroom gravy. As always, our edacious appetites were sated.


I would be remiss if I didn't thank the guys for including my birthday in the festivities. It was a fun night and your kindness and generosity was greatly appreciated, mille grazieVive le roi!

Mista polpo e calamari
Vongole al forno
Caponata
Panelle speciali
Arancini speciali
Lasagna and meatballs
Cavolfiore alla palermitana
Linguine marinara
Pollo alla Milanese
Stuffed meat roll with mushroom gravy and potatoes
It never gets old (that is until my 56th birthday).
The candles on my ricotta cheesecake were transposed
Profiterole
I got some nice Two Sicilies swag for my birthday
I also got a couple of interesting books by the
old Vorticists Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound

Notes: 

[1] Lord, save the King, and hear us when we call upon thee. Glory to the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning and is now, and it shall be, for ever without end. Amen.


[2] The Feast of San Catello (Jan. 19), Feast of San Sebastiano (Jan. 20), Feast of Santa Maria Cristina Brando (Jan. 20), Feast of Sant’Agnese (Jan. 21,) and the Feast of San Domenico di Sora (Jan. 22); the death of Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies (Jan. 19); the birthday of King Carlo III of Spain (Jan. 20); and the death of Charles I of England (Jan. 30).

Feast of St. Marianne Cope

St. Marianne Cope, ora pro nobis

January 23rd is the Feast of St. Marianne Cope (1883-1918), Virgin, Missionary, and Professed Sister of Saint Francis. She is invoked against leprosy. In celebration, we're posting a prayer to St. Marianne Cope. The accompanying photo was taken at St. Francis Church (308 Jefferson St.) in Hoboken, New Jersey. Evviva St. Marianne Cope!


Prayer to St. Marianne Cope


Lord Jesus, you gave us your commandment of love of God and neighbor, and identified yourself in a special way with the most needy of your people, hear our prayer. Faithful to your teaching, Saint Marianne Cope loved and served her neighbor, especially the most desolate outcast, giving herself generously and heroically for those afflicted by leprosy. She alleviated their physical and spiritual sufferings, thus helping them to accept their afflictions with patience. Her care and concern for others manifested the great love you have for us. Through her merits and intercession, grant us the favor which we confidently ask of you so that the people of God, following the apostolate, may practice charity towards all according to your word and example. Amen.

January 22, 2022

Feast of San Domenico di Sora

San Domenico di Sora, ora pro nobis
January 22nd is the Feast of San Domenico di Sora, Benedictine abbot and founder of several hermitages and monasteries in the Kingdom of Naples. Renowned for his healing miracles, San Domenico is invoked against poisonous snakebites, rabid dogs, fever and toothaches. Widely venerated across Southern Italy, the great healer is the principal patron of Sora (Terra di Lavoro), Colcullo (AQ), Pizzoferrato (CH), Villalago (AQ) and Fornelli (IS), among others. 
Each May in Colcullo, the town celebrates the Festa dei Serpari, or Feast of the Snake Handlers, in honor of their beloved patron. The event draws thousands of pilgrims each year.
During the festivities, San Domenico’s statue is dressed with live snakes and paraded through the streets with great fanfare. Among the saint’s relics on display at the local church are his molar and his mule’s iron horse shoe. The tooth is reputed to heal snake bites, while the horse shoe (a common symbol for good luck) is said to protect the town’s animals from danger. 
Popular custom says if you pull the chain of the church doorbell with your teeth you will be protected from toothaches. It’s common to see people wrap a handkerchief around the chain links, bite down, and ring the bell.
Some say the snake ritual dates back to pre-Christian times when the local Marsi tribes worshiped the telluric snake-goddess Angitia, daughter of Aeëtes, who taught the art of medicine to her devotees. The snake, among other things, is an ancient symbol of healing. Consider the serpent entwined Rod of Asclepius, the staff of the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing still used today by medical institutions. 
Others believe the rite symbolizes Christianity's triumph over paganism, because San Domenico performed wondrous miracles to protect the villagers from these afflictions while the mute and powerless goddess did naught.
In celebration, we're posting a Prayer to San Domenico Abate. The accompanying photo of the saint comes courtesy of Made in South Italy Today. Evviva San Domenico di Sora!
Prayer to San Domenico Abate
O glorious San Domenico, beloved patron and miracle worker, you served God in humility and confidence on earth. Now you enjoy His beatific vision in heaven. You persevered till death and gained the crown of eternal life. With your strength protect us, your devotees, from the venom of wild animals and the torment of toothaches. Amen.

Novena to Beata Maria Cristina di Savoia, Queen of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

Beata Maria Cristina di Savoia, ora pro nobis
Pray novena for nine consecutive days, January 22nd to January 30th, in preparation for the Feast celebrated on January 31st.

O God, You adorned Blessed Maria Cristina with diligent and wise charity, so that by her witness, she would contribute to the building up of Your Kingdom. Grant us also, by her example, to do good, drawing on the true riches of Your Love. Through her intercession, grant us the grace of [Mention request here] which we ask with confidence. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

* Pictured is my makeshift shrine.

January 21, 2022

Feast of Sant'Agnese di Roma

Sant'Agnese di Roma, ora pro nobis
January 21st is the Feast of Sant'Agnese (St. Agnes of Rome), Virgin and Martyr. Patron saint of young girls, virgins, gardeners, and rape victims, she is the principal protectress of Pineto (TE), Corropoli (TE), and Sava di Baronissi (SA). In celebration, we're posting a prayer to St. Agnes. The accompanying photo was taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Dating from the third quarter of the 17th century, the bronze statuette was modeled after a work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Evviva Sant'Agnese di Roma!
Prayer to St. Agnes
O Little St. Agnes, so young and yet made so strong and wise by the power of God, protect by your prayers all the young people of every place whose goodness and purity are threatened by the evils and impurities of this world. Give them strength in temptation and a true repentance when they fail.  Help them to find true Christian friends to accompany them in following the Lamb of God and finding safe pastures in His Church and in her holy sacraments. May you lead us to the wedding banquet of heaven to rejoice with you and all the holy martyrs in Christ who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.