section unites documents, articles, stories customs and uses
of caulonian tradition
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.
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
’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
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
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
< …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
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
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
The statue of Maria Addolorata arrives
at the Matrice church and here, in her presence, the mission preaches
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).
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 “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.
by Gustavo Cannizzaro www.caulonia2000.it
- March 2001