This section unites documents, articles, stories customs and uses
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" I Patarnosti "

With the funerary peals of the bells of the Matrice church at midnight on Mardì Gras (marti i lazzata) began the suggestive Lent period. This time saw our people intent in the preparations for Easter:  forty days of penance, reflection, prayer and abstinence from meat which every good Christian ended with the Easter dinner.

From the morning after, that is Ash Wednesday, with the streets still full of Carneval rubbish, the Matrice welcomed its believers to the funerary rites of the ashes.

“Memento homo, pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris” these are words which, partly because said in Latin, instilled a certain fear, a sense of being lost and repentance after the excesses of Carnival.

Thus was entered the long Lent period and with it the last phase of winter harshness before the arrival of the sweet season.

 It was common, during the Lent period, to hang the “Corajisima”, a small stuffed figure representing an old woman, who, instead of bearing gifts, held a “fuso” in her hand and, deprived of legs, she ended in a lemon to which seven hen quills were inserted to represent the weeks before Easter.

Each week that passed, removed one quill from her. This doll was a kind of calendar that regulated the life of the farmers who were beginning the years crops.
To the “Corajisima” a little poem was tied:

               Corajisima ’mpenduta
               si mangiau a lattuca
               a lattuca ’nci fici mali
               Corajisima ’nto manali
               u manali si ruppiu
               Corajisima sa fujiu
               sa fujiu sutt’o lettu
               pemmu ’u sona l'organettu
               l'organettu ’on ’nci sonau
               Corajisima s'arraggiau
               s'arraggiau pe ’nnu minutu
               Corajisima ’nto tambutu.

The symbols used in this little poem are obvious. Corajisima is hard life, bad quality life and the “lattuga” (lettuce) has always represented, from biblical times, the adversities: the bitterness of the forty years of the people of Israel unable to reach their promised land, the bitterness of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Lettuce is used to help digest fatty meat foods. “Manale”, our sausage container, represents the abundance to come when it breaks open and the Corajisima will cease her existence.

The nursery rhyme, together with the jokes tied to the character, were used to lighten the heavy Lent period.

During the night of the Friday before the first Sunday following the ashes, a mysterious voice can be heard among the streets of the historical centre, even today. It happens every following Friday and once more on the night of Holy Wednesday in order to begin the “Pater noster”.

Prota writes about this particular moment:
< The gathered people who are called “comunicati”, and who are a memory of the congregation “Congregati di Castelvetere”, reminds us immediately of medieval times heritage. On all the Fridays of Lent, in the dead of night, the male population gather in the church to listen to the preach against sin and bad behaviour. When the orator has inspired the assembly, the lights are extinguished and in the dark, the miserere is sung; the people flagellate themselves with iron rods, ropes and Cactus leaves (Agave): if in the darkness someone else is hit, not a word is said. This task completed, the most intoned men wander the streets of the town, stopping every now and then to ring a bell and with deep voices sing “O brothers, o sisters, remember that we all have to die! Today we stand, tomorrow we will be buried!” Having repeatedly rung the bell, they then say: “A Pater Noster and an Ave Maria for the souls in mortal sin… for the souls forgotten by purgatory…for the peace among Christian princes…” and so on. I still tremble when I remember the terror which made me flee to my mother’s side when I was a child awoken by the noise. Destining all those Pater Nosters to things I didn’t understand and the following mumbles of my mother and other members of the family, I will let you imagine the state of the hairs on my terrified head >.

Beautiful words which even today impart the mysterious moment of wonder that the hearing of such invocations provokes. Such a prayer, perhaps for the veil of fascination which surrounds it, has always attracted the Caulonian people’s attention. In more recent times, Alessandro Cavallaro, in his novel “The shadow of the Past”, evokes all the mysterious suggestion of those nights:

< …and while he was in that position, still overwhelmed by the nightmare and shaken by the violence of the thunder, a lugubrious ringing broke the dark silence and all his hairs stood on end, making him sweat cold. He was cold and his teeth began to chatter, he was unable to tell whether it was still the nightmare or if he was really awake. When the ringing stopped he fell exhaustedly onto his cushion and covered his face with the covers. Just at that moment, a sepulchral and pained voice, vibrant with arcane omens, began to sing a warning to men who live in sin. Is said more or less this:

May the Santissimo Sacramento
And the Virgin Mary,
Who conceived without original sin, be praised.
O brothers, O sisters,
consider that we must Die
And don’t know when or where,
because today we stand
and tomorrow we are buried.
Blessed is he who prays for his soul!
Let us say a Pater Noster and an Ave Maria
for the souls of the Saintly Purgatory.

These words hit Don Ciccio’s soul like a whip and although he buried his head in the pillow, and covered his face with the blankets, that voice penetrated his brain anyway. When he thought the voice had stopped talking, he raised his head to look at the darkness but he didn’t manage it in time, the ringing and the voice began again:

And another Pater Noster and another Ave Maria for those souls who are in mortal sin! >

During the last years, the Pater Noster ceremony has come back into fashion, al least in its open air phases, and many people, not living in the historical centre, come up to hear the lament. Often also the emigrates to America and Australia are present during this time probably remembering their own memories of this custom.

Lent slowly went by and along would come Lazarus’ Sunday, that is, the Resurrection from sin. From the church of the Arch-confraternity of the Immacolata, at ten o’clock in the morning, the procession with the statue of the Souls of Purgatory departed.

It moved, as it does today, along the roads of the town to meet in the Matrice church, where a solemn mass ended the function. Afterwards, the procession, together with the brothers of the Immacolata would take the Statue back to its church.

The Souls of Purgatory are represented in a beautiful, and suggestive papier-machè, quite a kitsch statue in popular taste which R. Del Pozzo di Mammola, made commissioned by Luigi Scrivo and Tommaso Bombardieri, in 1932 according to the styles spread throughout southern Italy by the artisans of Lecce.

The unstoppable passing of time brings us to the Friday preceding Passion Sunday.

The brothers of the arch-confraternity do the SS Rosario before sunset, still carry the statue of the Addolorata in a procession which is known as “A ‘nchianata da Madonna”.

The statue of Maria Addolorata arrives at the Matrice church and here, in her presence, the mission preaches begin.

For this function, even today, Lent fathers were invited (Franciscan monks, Agostinian monks, and mostly, Domenican monks). These preaches consisted of moments of strong reflection about the life of each believer during that period. The people of Caulonia have always been devout to the Madonna Addolorata, whose cult is a residue of the Spanish occupation still very much alive in us. There is no town in the world which has been touched by the Spanish invaders and doesn’t have an altar to the Madonna Addolorata. More than one source tells us that the name Dolores is still the most common name among Spanish speaking countries. For Passion Sunday, all sacred images were covered with purple drapes. After days of preaches, incense, and prayer, the following Friday is reached. In the darkness a religious procession leaves the Matrice church and bring the statue of the Maria Addolorata back to the Church of the Rosario.  This time the procession goes in the opposite direction to the previous Friday therefor it is known as the procession of the descending of the Madonna (scindunu a Madonna).

Palm Saturday is the great gala day for the arch-confraternity of the SS Rosario. The young boys of the place, according to tradition, keep removing small branches from the olive trees and palm leaves from the trees all day long. They braid them with dexterity to obtain the sacred symbols: the Holy Cross, the Sacred Heart, the Paniere and others. These simple and imaginative objects decorated (and still do) the piles of olive branches and palm leaves which the priest will bless. A solemn ceremony was held with the vespers Mass on Palm Saturday  in the church of the Rosario. This ceremony, although not so important as it used to be, is very important in the liturgical life of the Aech-confraternity of the Rosario. All its members, wearing their brothers robes, with a great candle in their hand take part in the “gira” of the church.

The “gira” is a kind of procession inside the church which goes from the main altar down the side of the nave. The bearer of the Cross heads the procession, then follow the brothers ordered by age, then the “Capiturno” and after them, the members of the “Banca Maggiore” (administrative organisation for the religious congregation) with the Prior following his assistants. Last is the Padre Cappellano, wrapped in his sumptuous liturgical robes and holding the monstrance, while the Prior of the Arch-.confraternity of the Immacolata, invited for the occasion, has the honour of bearing the banner. All this happens in the midst of organ music, liturgical songs, incense and solemn steps. Having completed a full round of the church, the religious function draws to an end with the elevation and blessing of the Santissimo.



The story of Lent, otherwise said
the rites of the holy week in Caulonia.
The Caracolo

by Gustavo Cannizzaro - March 2001


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