The Madonna story 17
Welcome to our page (17), the Madonna story of Genzano di Lucania.
The Madonna story of Genzano
The Madonna story of Genzano
Dear readers, here we are continuing to write our articles about my life story, and a folklore story of my native town of Genzano di Lucania, now these articles that we are writing will include also the Madonna story of Genzano, since this is part of the history of Genzano.
Anyhow, since we are talking here about Genzano di Lucania and its history, for this reason here-under are two or three links that are a must see for those people that come from Genzano town and also everyone else: I hope they work, as they also brink up more interesting other links to see.
((But there is more, only for those people that read Italian, they can use this link to see a lot more about this Madonna feast and there are also other interesting links within this link here:
Now, as you know, in our last article called The heritage chapter, we have explained and accepted that indeed in Genzano di Lucania a long time ago there were some Greek people living in one of the chasms, since even today one of the chasms is called the Greek chasm. Anyhow, I would like to go back in time and talk about the Greek people; because, there are reasons to believe that this Madonna story that we are going to write here would not exist if the Greek people were not there, because it could not have happened; but it did happen because of what they did a long time ago. You see, before those Greek people left the chasm for the last time, they did something that has made history in this town of Genzano. But before we talk about what they did, because there isn’t any written history we have to tell you that we have to assume many things. So, we need to use all the evidence that we can find, and then work it out the best way we can.
So, here we have to assume all this imaginary story because of the evidence that follows, you see, when we look at this evidence it seems that the Greek people were forced to move away from their living place in the chasm, and when they did they hid their Madonna effigy at the lower end of the chasm. Why they hid this Madonna effigy we are not sure; but I am sure that you can guess that this is another very important story to tell about the Greek people of the Christian community that lived in Genzano territory a very long time ago, we believe at the beginning of the Christian Era. Here we have to admit again that there is no real written evidence left and what we are telling here is mostly folklore stories and some logic human explanations when we try to put together what is known today.
We have also to admit that what follows here is mostly guess work, because nobody knows for sure what happened to the Greek people, it is known that they were there in the chasm and then they were not there anymore, but the facts are not known and perhaps today it is not important to know exactly what happened to them, because after all in this article we want only to tell you the story of the Greek Madonna effigy that is going to follow here-under. But for sure there must have been an upheaval of some sort early in the Christian era; because, they (the Greek people) seem to have been persecuted and had to run away, and when they left, they had to hide away their most precious religious things. So they left behind buried in a secret spot in a little known cave, an effigy of a Madonna, which was to be found much later by the people of Genzano di Lucania.
How they came about to find this Madonna icon later on just about everybody in Genzano seems to know some of this story, because it is a story that has been told from generation to generation, since they found this Madonna, so just about everybody in Genzano could tell you their own version easily. Therefore, I had only to find a few names and a few dates to write my own version down, which I would like to tell you here and now.
The Madonna story
One day in the year of our Lord 1619 there was this fourteen years old youth grazing some oxen in the fields of Genzano; his parents were of a good and honourable family, the youth name was; Pietro di Giovanni Filippo, and he happened to mind some oxen in the fields when this event happened, he was in the zone that we call Strippara which is near Genzano town where this event took place, in fact it seems to me that he was at the very beginning of the chasm called ‘Del Monte’. So, while he was browsing his oxen there; a Lady all dressed in white appeared to him; and she told him that he should go and tell the people of Genzano that, they should go into the chasm near the fountain of Capo d’aqua, and dig in the cave that was once known to have been in the vineyard of ‘Don Fabio’ and they would find her image there.
The youth went to town and told the people and the priest of the apparition of this great Lady, but they were not sure whether to believe him or not; so nothing was done about it at that point of time. But after a few days or a week or two, the Lady in white appeared to the youth again; but this time she asked the youth to open his hand, and she wrote in his hand a message to the priest, she closed the youth hand and told him to go to the priest and show him that writing. The youth now with his closed fist that he could not or would not open for fear ran into the town and found the priest, and told him about the second apparition of the Lady in white, and that the Lady had written on his hand in his closed fist something; the priest took his hand to see and there in front of the priest he could open his hand again; and in his hand the priest could see the message which read (I am Maria Santissima Delle Grazie, and come to find me).
So, now the priest had no doubt in his mind from where that message was coming from, and he assembled the people of Genzano and told them the facts. A search was organized, and they dug in and around the said cave for a very long time, and not knowing exactly where else to dig, they also dug farther up the mountain, where they found some human remains and other object as evidence that over there, a long time ago some eremites had been living there.
The search went on for about two long years and therefore they became tired of it. And it seemed to them at that time, that there was not a real Madonna image to be found, because the only image of a Madonna that they had found there, it was a Madonna traced over the sand which was slowly disappearing. And thinking that this would be all that they could find, they decided to give up the search, but at the same time they would build a small chapel in honour of this Madonna. But while they were digging the foundation for this chapel, a whole heap of very hard rock fell from the chasm’s wall above, which showed them that there was a smaller cave near the old cave higher up in the chasm’s wall, and in this small cave they found a few religious items, including a small image of St. Peter on a brick, but there was no Madonna image or large icon to be found.
The Madonna is found
So, they decided to remove the fallen rocks and sort them out, so that they could use those rocks to build part of the chapel anyhow. And then the following happened; it happened the 25th day of March 1621 late in the afternoon, it was about the time when in the church they say this afternoon prayer called Vespers, at this time of the day most people that are in the country would pack up to go home. But there was a worker working at the fallen stone heap, and although he was tired he felt that he wanted to do just a little bit more before he would turn in, so he kept working just a little bit extra: His name was ‘Giovanni Malatesta’ and he was digging with a pick to get the stones loose from the fallen heap of rocks, when he hit a very hard rock, and a beautiful aroma filled the air: he had struck with his pick the sculpture of the ‘Madonna with Child’. What a shock to this man must have been, when he realised that he struck with his pick the icon of the Madonna over the eye. They say that he never was the same man again from the shock, and it is said that he died early in his life not long after this event took place.
As soon as they realised that they had found the Madonna, somebody ran up the road to town, to let the people of Genzano know that they had finely found the Madonna icon, and the good news spread so fast, and most of the town’s folks went to see for themselves, even though it was already evening and it soon would be dark.
The whole town was in feast for a very long time afterward.
All the religious authorities were in due time advised about the finding of the Madonna icon, and they took part in the prescribed religious events that followed. A Chapel was built on the spot where they had found the Madonna, with the intention that one day they would build a church there. After they found the icon of the Madonna with Child many people came to adore this Madonna, they came from the surrounding towns and also from far away towns and they received so many miracles from this Madonna that would be even hard just to count their number. Of course, today’s people don’t believe in miracles and therefore they would not believe what we are saying here, but this is our folklore story that goes around Genzano town even these days.
Taking the Madonna to town
But there is still an extra folklore story to tell about this Madonna of Genzano, this story might be a bit out of the ordinary ways of how normal things happen, and therefore today many people might not believe it at all, but then we have to think that here we are talking about Madonnas and therefore also miracles, we also have to keep in mind that the old people believed that it really happened the way that they have been told, so let us tell you the story just the way it has been told and retold many times from the elders of the town.
The folklore story of this Madonna goes on to tell us, that while they were taking the Madonna effigy they had found at Capodaqua to the main town church, of Maria SS Della Platea, which was the main church of the town of Genzano then, when they reached the entrance of the town, as you know in those times every town had their entrance doors that were shut at night to guard against thieves and assaults from outside, anyhow when they reached the entrance of the town the Madonna effigy became very heavy, it was so heavy that the bears had to stop and set the devise they were carrying the Madonna with on the ground.
Then when they tried to lift her off the ground again they could not lift her; so the priest and the town authorities started to think, why this was happening and what they could do to fix this unseen problem, some wise man started saying that perhaps the Madonna wanted to be recognized that she was a very powerful spiritual being, and to recognize her the best thing to do was to give her the keys of the town and hope that this was what the Madonna wanted, so somebody went to fetch the keys and placed the keys beside her effigy, and soon the effigy became light again and they were able to take her through the entrance of the town and then into the church. This is one of the folklore stories of this Madonna; and therefore it is up to us, if we want to believe it or not; some of us today might think that the priest or the authorities tricked the people to believe all this, and here again is up to us to believe whatever we want to believe.
We need to say here again that believer are believers and they believe almost any religious thing that are being told; I am saying this because of the following event, I remember when I was young that at this same entrance where the Madonna came into Genzano town the first time; there are/were times when some peregrines would come to adore this Madonna with child, and they were bringing with them a little statue of a child, I don’t know exactly what all this meant, but there is a phrase in the Genzanese dialect “U bambnid d Frenz” meaning the little baby Jesus of Forenza; Forenza is a town that would take several hours of walking to reach Genzano, and those peregrines did all this walking to come and adore this Madonna in Genzano, there were really religious believers in those old days.
Because this Madonna is very important even today to the people of Genzano; the people of Genzano celebrate the feast of this Madonna every year and here is a link of the procession in the very old part of Genzano, I hope it works for you; and then we will talk about the Madonna church.
The Madonna church
Some years had passed from the day that they found the Madonna icon at Capodaqua, back in 1621 or there about, when somebody dreamed that the Madonna wanted a church of her own, built on a hill nearby called ‘Montefreddo’, as it happened the night that the dreamer dreamed this dream it was snowing, but in the morning the snow had melted away everywhere except where the dreamer had dreamed that the Madonna wanted her church built. The dreamer told her dream to the people of Genzano, which then they understood and took notice of the strange event of the snow. Therefore, it was then decided that the new church would have to be built where that large patch of snow was left. And this is the reason why the church of this Madonna with child was built on this hill called, Montefreddo.
With the building of the Madonna church many more devotees came to adore this Madonna, and they prayed to her for graces and miracles; and many graces and miracles they received in return, so this Madonna sanctuary grew and became well known all around the country for a few centuries, but then one day a fire broke out in the crowded church, because they had too many things going on at the same time and some people perished. After that it was closed for a while and then they fixed it and opened it again, but after that fire it was not as popular as before.
Nowadays, although this Madonna church has been damaged badly twice by earthquake and once by fire, as we have said above, it has been rebuilt and restored and it is still very popular, but not quite as much as it used to be, I suppose it is the sign of the times, because people nowadays don’t believe in religion as much as they used to do in the old times, when they found this Madonna.
Anyhow, in the town of Genzano of nowadays, we still celebrate a great feast for this Madonna, the yearly festivity for this Madonna are held for three days the first week end in August. We will have to come back to tell you about these festivities later on; because now I would like to tell you what else the people of Genzano did after they found the Madonna Icon at Capo D’aqua.
Madonna chapel and fountain
The Madonna chapel and Capo D'aqua fountain
Let us go back at the site where they found the Madonna Icon and what the people of Genzano did soon after they found this Madonna; we have already mentioned above that they were going to build a chapel, and so they built the chapel; but at the same time they built a larger fountain, because when the people of Genzano were digging to find the Madonna icon, they also found another large spring of water, so they channelled this water to make a larger fountain nearby that to these days is called Capo d’aqua, because on the abundance of this spring waters.
Since then this fountain has been rebuilt and enlarged several times, one of this was about the year 1800, in order to serve the people of Genzano as the population was growing larger. The fountain has inscribed in a corner the name of a certain ‘Lepore’, perhaps he was the mayor of the town at the time when they built or rebuilt the fountain. As I said it is a large and abundant spring fountain situated just downstream from where they had found the Madonna, and just about where the chasm Del’monte and the Greek chasm meet, but well before they merge with St. St Antun or St Michael chasm downstream.
The fountain was built as a simple country fountain, and it had five or six large troughs of about three-metre-long and one-metre-wide, all built of solid and simple masonry. There are reasons to believe that the people of Genzano have used a lot this outside town fountain, because there was no reticulated water in town in those old times.
So, this fountain was used in various ways, as there are two troughs which have three and four water sprouts each, which are fed from the spring and are constantly pouring water into the troughs. The two troughs with the sprouts are reserved for the animals to drink, and for those people that want to fill some sorts of vessels straight from the sprouts. From these two troughs then the water runs out into the rest of the troughs, and these secondary troughs were used to do the town’s washing, since there was no reticulated water in town in those times.
Capo d’aqua fountain was very popular in the old times, there was even a song that a young girl used to sing happily, she would sing about the time when she would go to Capo d’aqua fountain to do the washing. I can still remember a few of the dialect verses, and they go like this:
My Italian dialect verses.
Me chiam Rosa e teng vent’ann
E a Capodaqua ije lav li pann
Kess eij la dota ca me dai mam
na strecatora e na cest pei pann.
My name is Rose and I am twenty
And a Capo D’aqua I wash the clothes
This is the dowry that my mother gives me,
A scrubbing board and a basket for clothes.
There is a longer version of the washing lady written from the writer 'Angelo Valente' which must be a lot closer to the original; I am going to post it in my blog, http://genzanoit.blogspot.com/, once you open this link on the left side find a list of pages and click on, Poem the washing lady.
I believe that by now I have said enough about the Madonna with child of Genzano di Lucania, and the story of the fountain of Capo D’aqua, situated in the town that I have come from. I hope that you my readers by now have got a pretty good idea what it was like then, and also what was like over there when I was young. So, now I would like to talk about my own life and personal experience for a few more articles, before I migrated for Australia, and after that I will be telling you my life story when I was here in Australia.