The Madonna Story
The Madonna effigy they found in 1621
What devotees do at this Madonna feast
The Madonna story of Genzano
Welcome to our article (17), the Madonna story.
Dear readers, in this article we will write about the history of the Madonna of Genzano. Anyhow, here is a link about what sometime happens in the church of this Madonna of Genzano.
Now, in our last article the heritage chapter, we have explained that in Genzano di Lucania a long time ago there were Greek people living in one of the chasms, since even today it is called the Greek chasm. Anyhow, I want to go back in time and talk about the Greek people; because we believe that this Madonna story that we are writing here, could not have happened if the Greek people were not there. You see, before those Greek people left the chasm for the last time, they hid this Madonna effigy that has made history in the town of Genzano.
Anyhow, we must assume this imaginary story, because when we look at the 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 they did.
Here we are talking about the Greek people of the early Christian community that lived in the chasm of Genzano; we have to admit that there is no written evidence, so, what we are telling here is folklore stories and logic human explanations, when we put together what is known today.
Anyhow, what follows here is guess work, because nobody knows 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 today it is not important to know what happened to them, since we want only to tell you the story of the Greek Madonna effigy. It seems that the Greek people were 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 later by the people of Genzano di Lucania.
How they found this Madonna icon, everybody in Genzano seems to know the 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 can tell you the story. Therefore, I had only to find a few names and a few dates to write my own version down, which I want to tell you now.
The Madonna statue of Genzano
Telling the Madonna story
One day in the year of our Lord 1619 there was a fourteen years old youth grazing oxen in the fields of Genzano, in the zone that we call Strippara; his parents were of a good and honourable family, the youth name was; Pietro di Giovanni Filippo, and he was minding some oxen in the fields, at the beginning of the chasm ‘Del Monte’ when this event happened. While he was browsing his oxen; 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 as the vineyard of ‘Don Fabio’ and they would find her 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. 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 where else to dig, they also dug farther up the mountain, where they found some human remains and other object as evidence that eremites had been living there, a long time ago.
The search went on for about two years. So, they thought that there was not a real Madonna image to be found, because the only image of a Madonna that they had found, it was a Madonna traced over the sand which was slowly disappearing. And thinking that this was all they would find, they decided to give up the search, but at the same time they wanted to build a small chapel in honour of this Madonna. But while they were digging the foundation for this chapel, a whole heap of hard rocks 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 icon to be found.
The small Madonna chapel below where they found the effigy
The Madonna is found
Anyhow, they decided to remove the fallen rocks, they could use the rocks to build the chapel. 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 Vespers’ prayers, at this time of the day most people that are in the country pack up to go home. But there was a worker working at the fallen stone heap, he was tired, but he wanted to do a little bit more, so, he kept working: 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, and he died early in life, after this event.
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 found the Madonna icon.
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 from far away towns and they received many miracles from this Madonna that would be hard to count them. Of course, today’s people don’t believe in miracles, therefore, they will not believe what we are saying here, but this is the Madonna folklore story that goes around Genzano town even these days.
Porta di Santo Antonio
Taking the Madonna to town
But there is another folklore story to tell about this Madonna, today most people may not believe it, but you see, here we are talking about Madonnas and miracles, we have to keep in mind that the old people believed that it happened the way that they have been told, so, let us tell you the story, the way it has been told and retold many times from the elders of the town.
The story is, that while they were taking the Madonna effigy to town, to the church of Maria SS Della Platea, which was the main church of Genzano then, when they reached the entrance of the town, the Madonna effigy became heavy, (In those times every town had their entrance doors that were shut at night), the effigy 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 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 overcome this unseen problem, some wise man started saying that perhaps the Madonna wanted to be recognized that she was a 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, they 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 into the church. This is one of the folklore stories of this Madonna; now it is up to us, if we want to believe it or not.
We need to say that believer believe 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 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 town dialect “U bambnid d Frenz” meaning the little baby Jesus of Forenza; Forenza is a town that 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.
Festivities of the Madonna of Genzano di Lucania
The Madonna feast fancy lighting
The orchestra stand for the festivities of our Madonna at Genzano
The church of the Madonna in Genzano
Building the Madonna church
A few years after they found the Madonna icon at Capodaqua, somebody dreamed that the Madonna wanted a church of her own, built on a hill called ‘Montefreddo’. When the dreamer dreamed that the Madonna wanted her church built, that night 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 decided that the new church had 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 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.
Today, this Madonna church has been damaged badly twice by earthquake and once by fire, it has been rebuilt and restored and it is still 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 believe in the old times, when they found this Madonna.
Anyhow, in the town of Genzano, we still celebrate a great feast for this Madonna, the yearly festivity for this Madonna are held for three days the first weekend in August. We will come back to tell you about these festivities later; because now I want to tell you what else the people of Genzano did after they found the Madonna Icon at Capo D’aqua.
Capo D'daqua fountain
Madonna chapel and fountain
The Madonna chapel and Capo D'aqua fountain
Let us go back to the site where they found the Madonna Icon; as we have said they were going to build a chapel, and they did build the chapel; but at the same time, they built a larger fountain, because when they were digging to find the Madonna icon, they also found a large spring of water, so, they channelled this water to make a larger fountain at 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, 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 downstream from where they had found the Madonna, and where the chasm Del’monte and the Greek chasm meet, but well before they merge with St. Antony chasm.
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. We believe that the people of Genzano have used this fountain outside the town a lot, because there was no reticulated water in town in those days.
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 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 I have said enough about the Madonna story, So, see you next time with, our life observations. --------------------------------------------
Some useful links
- Frank Menchise
One of my website domains in yola.com about my life story
- Genzano di Lucania - YouTube
"...per tutti quelli che...Genzano.."
- nostalgia - complesso bandistico V. Bellini Genzano di Lucania - YouTube
Esecuzione marcia sinfonica Nostalgia, Concerto di inizio anno 2010. Complesso Bandistico V.Bellini città di Genzano di Lucania
- Comune di Genzano di Lucania - Home Page
Comune di Genzano di Lucania
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