All posts tagged church

Library Girolamini

Published May 10, 2014 by Tony


Thieves of books: a scandal in Naples

Library Girolamini


The “Library Girolamini” was one of the most valuable Italian libraries of seventeenth-century.
Among relic of saints, tombs and masterpieces of the seventeenth century, it was a state cultural institution in Naples, with very important collection of books, as well as an important operatic music archive. Having been opened to the public in 1586 it is the oldest library in Naples and the second in Italy after “Malatesta” library in Cesena.
From an architectural point of view, the library is part of the church complex Girolamini that with its 68 x 28 meters is one of the biggest religious buildings in Naples. Because of its decoration in gold, marble and mother of pearl, it earned the title of “Domus aurea“;  its interior has a concentration of high quality works by Neapolitan artists but also from Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Rome. Attached there is the homonym convent, home of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Filippo Neri, whose members, known as “oratoriani” o “filippini”, dedicated to the sanctification of souls through education, spiritual direction, preaching and liturgical apostolate, especially among young people, as it was in the tradition of Filippo Neri.

The library of the Girolamini treasured more than 160 000 titles, mostly antique, including incunabula and sixteenth, (ie printed documents with the technology of movable type in vogue in the mid-fifteenth century till the year 1500), numerous manuscripts, with many compositions and musical works from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Holdings also included the private collection of Giuseppe Valletta, with rare editions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the classics of Greek and Latin literature, history and philosophy.
Due to the earthquake of 1980, the monastery and library’s premises were used as temporary shelter for the displaced, and has since started an era of abandonment that has lasted until last year. The institution has been closed to the public for decades, and was in a state of decay. The precariousness of the housing, according to an estimate of its conservative father Sandro Marsano, would have led over the years to the disappearance of hundreds of books and works of art.

In 2011, Marino Massimo De Caro became director of the Library,  whose appointment by the Minister for Cultural Heritage Lorenzo Ornaghi, has raised some concerns. After a series of articles of complaint signed by the art historian Tommaso Montanari of Federico II University, the professor Francesco Caglioti became the organizer of a petition together other exponents of the culture, in order to solicit the De Caro impeachment.
As a result of these events, on April 19, 2012 the entire library complex was impounded by the police and the director of De Caro investigated. The investigation leads to the discovery, in the province of Verona, of a deposit containing 240 volumes stolen from the library. Investigations acquire evidence that many other books had already gone abroad for being sold, including the names of some buyers, located in England, Japan and USA. For the latter, procedures for recovery already have been initiated. The investigation leads to the arrest of De Caro and the curator Sandro Marsano, and the start of the investigations against the Senator Marcello Dell’Utri. On 15 March 2013, Massimo De Caro has been convicted after an abbreviated trial, with the prison sentence of seven years and perpetual interdiction from public office.

171 thousand volumes of which one hundred thousand uncatalogued, while four thousand had disappeared. Some sold at an auction in Monaco of Bavaria, other priceless sold between 5000 and 50,000 Euros: a real looting . The senator Dell’Utri, an expert bibliophile, with the help of director De Caro, and with the excuse of wanting to make the library a museum admired throughout the world, they empties and upset it. With their authority they forced the library staff to step aside, and at night plunder the library. The stolen books end up with various tricks in the hands of various collectors, and to the director De Caro is attributed the most serious theft, the precious book: the “Sidereus Nuncius”  of 1619 by Galileo Galilei.

From the initial investigation turns out that De Caro did not even have the qualifications to be appointed director of a library, and that he had dealings with Pastor Daniel Guido, involved in the investigation of thefts to the libraries of Madrid and Zaragoza. Yet, even though it was a state institution, he became the director with the support of Sandro Marsano and validation of the Ministry of Culture, where meantime the senator Dell’Utri was performing his task under Berlusconi government. Dell’Ultri, collaborator of Berlusconi, has been a Deputy of “Forza Italia” party from 1996 to 2001, when he was elected Senator of the Republic and held, among other tasks, the Chairman of the Commission for the Senate Library. In 2008 he was re-nominated to the Senate, and elected in the PDL party, despite in the meantime he had been convicted for collusion with Mafia. On 25 March 2013, the Third Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Palermo sentenced Dell’Ultri in the second degree of judgment and with a penalty of 7 years imprisonment for collusion with the Mafia. The judgment considered Marcello Dell’Utri an intermediary between mafia and Silvio Berlusconi. As a fugitive shortly before the measure of arrest, he has been tracked down and arrested April 12, 2014 in Beirut by Lebanese police, where he is currently being held pending extradition to Italy.
For a long time, thanks to new manager Umberto Bile, the library is again open to the public and after rummaging around in rooms closed for decades, he has found relics of saints, forgotten tombs, hand-embroidered copes of the eighteenth century, some paintings and even the column used by Caravaggio to paint the ” Flagellation of Christ “.  A funny thing in having found the remains of a man who was 2 meters and thirty centimeters tall in a crypt which is just a few steps from a nearby street called “Giant’s alley.”  Everything will be photographed , cataloged and restored if possible.

Girolamini Church

Girolamini cloister


Published April 22, 2013 by Tony


I have read that there are polls determining who has sex in the strangest place and the couple who was arrested a few days ago, in the province of Livorno, could clinch the top spot in the standings.
In the afternoon of Tuesday, some believers who were in the cathedral of Cecina heard (unambiguous) moans coming from a confessional and horrified called the police.
Once at the church and opened the confessional, the agents found themselves in front of a half-naked couple engaged in a sexual intercourse. Although the two tried to escape, were arrested and charged with resisting at public officers and obscene acts in public.
Umm, if the case, they will participate in an upcoming poll when they will come out of jail.


Cappella Sansevero

Published March 24, 2013 by Tony

Raimondo of Sangro

San Severo

Who has had the opportunity to read some articles in which I speak of Naples, about the long-standing problems facing the city, will be became aware of my love-hate feeling towards it. Different matter, however, is to consider this city under a cultural and artistic point of view. As many assert, and I am convinced, it is a city – if not the only – with the highest concentration of natural beauty and works of high historical and artistic interest, a truly huge cultural heritage. Among these is included the “Chapel of San Severo” or “Santa Maria della Pietà” in the historic center of the city.
Its creator, Raimondo di Sangro VII, Prince of Sansevero was a scholar, a soldier, an inventor, anatomist and esoteric Freemason born in Foggia in 1710 and died in Naples in 1771, around which many legends were born.   The members of his family were grandees of Spain, owners of countless feuds in Apulia (as Sansevero Torremaggiore, Castelnuovo, Casalvecchio), and, by paternal line, claimed to be directly descended from Charlemagne.
Motherless since childhood, he was assigned to the paternal grandparents who at 10 years sent him to study at the Jesuit School of Rome, where he remained until 20 years.  His father was gone to Vienna, to escape incarceration because accused of having killed a girl’s father in Sansevero, with whom he had fallen in love, and later retired to a monastery in Rome where he took his vows. Naples was the permanent residence of Raimondo’s family where he came back as soon completed his studies. In the same year, by proxy, since she lived in the Andes, he married the fourteen Carlotta Gaetani d’Aragona, who met only six years after the wedding. During his life, the prince of Sansevero took care of many things of a military nature, arts and culture, but also of inventions and alchemy. Adjacent to the family  mansion, separated by an alley, is still the chapel of his family, and according to legend, it was built by the ancestors of the prince in 1593 on an ancient temple of Isis, while in 1744, 100 years later, Raymond resumed the restoration works. Construction’s works that drained the family’s coffers and lasted until the death of the prince, but that made the small church with his Masonic influences and allegories, a masterpiece of Baroque Neapolitan, attended by famous artists.

Cristo velato

The chapel is known mainly for three idiosyncratic statues that adorn it, two of which “Veiled Modesty” and “Veiled Christ“, seem to be covered by a transparent veil of marble – that is all one with the sculpture –  and to date critics has not yet figured out the technique used. Same goes for the third statue entitled “Disillusion” on which there is a network created by marble. One of the hypotheses, by modern admirers of the Prince, is that it is the result of a process invented by the Prince to “marbleize” the fabric. This procedure, however, has not yet been put to the test, and still do not seem to be a convincing explanation. One possible interpretation of these works’ allegorical message, focuses on the Enlightenment, which is that through the reason man reaches the disappointment and gets rid of false truths. In the of the chapel’s “Underground Cave” we find two special “mummies” defined  “anatomical machines” by the prince, two human skeletons (a black woman and one man) with their entire circulatory system (including capillaries) perfectly visible.
It is not known how such structures have been obtained and legend has it that the Prince would obtain the “metallization” or “plastination” of the blood circuit “injecting” a compound of his invention and, therefore, the two subjects had to be alive at the time of the experiment (note that the syringe did not yet exist at the time). However, whether they are machines or real bodies is not certain, since the owners of the Chapel have always refused to let perform any type of investigation.


It was easy for the common people to give birth to magical stories on the erudite and mysterious Prince of Sansevero, who, however, did nothing to discredit the rumors rather, cloaked in the secrecy of his life, for days he remained closed in in his alchemical laboratory, where studied and realized his experiments and his inventions. It should be added that, in the basement of the palace, a printing press had been placed and its noise, very original for the time, could well fuel further rumors. From general accusations of alchemy, witchcraft and atheism, other more serious charges took root, without any basis as far as we know, such as kidnapping poor and homeless for his ignoble experiments. For this and more, he was nicknamed the “black noble”.
The Cappella Sansevero also known as the Capella Sansevero de’ Sangri received its alternative name of Pietatella (from the word pity) from a painting of the Virgin Mary (La Pietà), spotted there by an unjustly arrested prisoner, as reported in the book “Napoli Sacra” by Cesare d’Engenio Caracciolo in 1623. When the chapel was constructed it was originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà, after the painting.
With its thirty works of art and decoration in late-Baroque, the chapel has always been a destination for tourists and visitors.

Metal Veins



Published March 11, 2013 by Tony

‘Paschal struscio’
A sort of stroll


All over the world, the Holy Week for Catholics is the period before Easter, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
In Italy, the Holy Week’s representations are numerous and often very charming, popular in almost every region, in which strictly religious elements mix with folk components.
In Naples, one of these is the “lo struscio“.
From Good Friday the Sacrifice of the Mass is no longer officiated, and therefore the Eucharist is not consecrated. In addition, the repose of the  Eucharist is a way to invite the faithful to worship, in the night between Thursday and Friday (that we called Holy Sepulchers time), the establishment of a so big mystery and meditating on the sufferings of the Passion of Christ.
It was customary to decorate every altar with buds. In the days of Lent (which lasts forty-four days, starting from Ash Wednesday), many people placed in small flowerpots or bowls, containing wet soil or cotton wool, seeds of wheat or pulses, and then placing them in the dark. After a few weeks, they germinated in the form of greenish-yellow long and thick filaments, and on Holy Thursday each person brought the vase in church. (The seed, place in the ground -sepulcher- is transformed into a new plant that will look something different in appearance from the seed, but it is essentially the same thing, and maturing generates new seeds allowing the renewal of the life cycle).

In the past, during ‘Holy Sepulchers days’ many believers went in mass in the different parishes, generally seven (like the days of the week) to pray and visit the churches (the number of visited churches had to be odd and never less than three or more than seven, otherwise it was ominous).
Keep in mind that in Naples there are a lot of churches, often not very far from each other. In the eighteenth century in Naples there were a hundred convents and monasteries and about 500 churches, so that Naples earned the nickname of “the city with 500 domes”. Naples still has a large number of churches and convents, a value that is around thousand units, which places it among the cities with the highest number of worship’s place in the world. If we consider only the historical churches, the number is very high, in fact, they even surpass the 200 units in the old town and 450 in the entire city center.

“Ce qui nous to the paru plus extraordinaire à Naples, c’est le nombre et de ses the magnificence églises; puis je vous sans exagérer say this hides surpasse the immagination”  – Maximilien Misson –

Although in many parts of Italy and in general “lo struscio” (rub) is strusciodefined the evening Sunday stroll in provincial towns, once in Naples it referred to the visit of the Sepulchers made during Holy Week, (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) in the churches. The name comes from the Neapolitan verb “strusci-are” (to rub) and stems from the fact that, in the past, so much was the persons who moved into the street for this occasion, that crowding led people to touch and “strusciate” (rubbing) each other, or it can also refer to the sound of their shoes “rubbing” on the pavement.
Over time, this custom has lost its religious significance and although many people still leave their homes for a walk on Friday or Saturday evening, the ‘Paschal struscio’ has become an opportunity to go shopping, to show off new clothes or meet friends and people.
Even today, for young people it is a good opportunity to get “panni nuovi” (new clothes) from parents. This custom originated in the postwar years, when people bought some new clothing only on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter.

Easter in Naples



Published March 9, 2013 by Tony



After the political elections of a week ago, and after the resignation given by Ratzinger on 28 February, now it’s time for the nomination of the new Pope
Thus, after the Pope traveled by helicopter to reach Castel Sant’Angelo, the first encounters between the various cardinals began.
Before the Pope went away, the famous “Fisherman’s Ring“, the papal ring of Pope Benedict XVI that he wore, has been canceled. It is no longer expected its destruction, as tradition demanded until the death of John Paul II, the Apostolic Constitution drafted by John Paul II specifies that the ring can only be Papal Fisherman's Ringstreaked. The person in charge of destroying the “Anulus Piscatoris” is the cardinal Camerlengo, who runs one of the most symbolic ceremonies of the Church with a silver hammer and a chisel, putting now a simply mark and the ring is then preserved in the Vatican archives.
The dismissed Pope can only bring away his personal effects, all the things closely related to his office must remain in the Vatican, including clothes as the camauro (cap of red velvet and ermine), the mozzetta (the skirt), the baleen (the liturgical vestment), any kind of miter and even the slippers.
In the meantime, however, the Vatican is not without government. In fact, according to the canon law’s norms, some figures can manage the ordinary administration of the Church of Rome. In the absence of the Pope only the secretary of state and heaads of department lose their tasks, while all the others remain in office. They have the task of guiding the transition and to monitor the election of his successor.
The Camerlengo is the most important figure after the Pope, because has the task of chairing the seat vacant until the new appointment. Currently he is the cardinal of bishops’ order who plays this role. His functions are varied, from verifies that the pope is actually died,  to the removal of the Fisherman’s Ring, as well as the management of  the Church’s daily affairs.
The Dean of the College of Cardinals is the president of the College of Cardinals who is responsible for convening the Conclave.
The Protodeacon is the title given to the cardinal deacon appointed for the longestblack smoke time. He is responsible for announcing the new Pope
The Cardinal Archpriest of St. Peter is, finally, one of the four cardinals who remains in office after the death or resignation of the Pope.
The Conclave has already taken the first steps through the general congregations of the college, where cardinals dialogue and exchange viewpoints, and this eighth congregation decided that the Conclave for the election of the new Pope will begin Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Everything is held in the strictest confidence. While assembled in conclave, a Latin word for “locked by key”, nobody knows what they say. We only know the rules. In order to vote, a cardinal must have less than 80 years.
As always, the Conclave will be held in the Sistine Chapel closed for the occasion, and in the afternoon of Tuesday, 12  the cardinals will go in, and probably the first vote and the resulting smoke by the chimney visible from St. Peter’s Square.
white smokeThe first day of the conclave, the cardinals vote only once. In the case of black smoke (produced burning voting cards, notes and documents of the vote by adding a special substance that makes it black), in the following days they vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. 77 votes are needed to ascend to the throne of Peter, because they now are 115 cardinals to vote. A cardinal is elected Pope when he gets two-thirds of the votes. After the 34th polling, the ballot takes place between the two cardinals who got more preferences so far.
When a cardinal gets a qualified majority, the Cardinal Dean – presently the Archbishop Angelo Sodano – asks the newly elected whether he accepts and what is the name he intends take. After that, the vote cards are burnt in the stove that will produce white smoke (once wet straw was used, now a particular chemical). A cardinal may also be excommunicated unless he complies with the rules of the conclave.
To avoid any external influence, the cardinals are hosted in the close hospice of Santa Marta where they can not have any contact with the outside. There is no radio, TV or phone line.


The eyes of Catholics will be focused on the fireplace. When the smoke is white, the cardinal proto-deacon will look down from the balcony of St. Peter and officially will announce to the world:

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam!



Published February 27, 2013 by Tony



A news, this, heartening and that hopefully could pave the way for more “openness” by the Catholic Church to the real community’s needs.
Just like last week the German bishops valued the use of the “morning after pill“, to prevent unwanted pregnancies in cases of rape, now the Spanish bishops, in an episcopal conference, also decided to legitimate its use.
Although it has been confirmed that this pill should not be used indiscriminately for an abortive use, this new position of the Church is a first step that can only be welcomed by any faithful, while we all trust in others viewpoints adjustments about other “hot” topics on which the Church is unfortunately still too rigid and anachronistic. Among them, the ban for divorcees to participate in the Eucharist, the firm condemnation towards homosexuality, or the free prelates’ choice to get married.
Although I’m not a true Catholic observant, I do not believe that Jesus, who loved in equal way all the “sheep of his flock,” and that has always supported unconditional love, even forgiving  Magdalene who was a prostitute, could prevent people to be good “Christians” or to participate in the “table of the Lord” because of their sexuality or civil status. Ultimately, the Pope and bishops should consider the fact, scientific inter alia, that sexuality is not a choice or a “disease” that can heal and change to our liking. The same way as other genetic characteristics, also sexuality must definitively be considered as one of the “products” created by our Lord, as it can be Down syndrome or color blindness, and therefore it has nothing to do with the “free will”, according to which a believer can do some choices. In my opinion, these simple considerations should not even necessitate long and troubled debates.


Published June 24, 2012 by Tony


Near the city of Siena is a place that has something “magical”.
It takes us back in time to the days of knights and of the mystery of the Holy Grail. Here is a sword stuck in a rock that recalls the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

San GalganoGalgano Guidotti was born of noble family in 1148, in a small wild and unspoiled village near the city of Siena, named Montesiepi, and like many other young knights of that time, he was proud and overbearing, and spent his youth  as libertine and thoughtless. Years later, he abandoned his frivolous world, disgusted by the atrocities committed and by what he had seen, to devote himself to a life of penance by a hermit and ascetic life.
In 1180, as a tangible sign of perpetual waiver to all forms of violence, plunged his sword into a rock outcropping above the ground, with the intention of using it as a cross to pray near, rather than as a weapon to offend. A great symbolic gesture of extreme force.
He did so on the hill where he had had his first mystical experiences and where his horse had stopped several times reverently kneeling before the apparition of the Archangel Gabriel. As a sign of faith, the rock on which many times the white horse was kneeling on, kept the lasting prints of his knees. This stone is now in Galgano’s birthplace house, in the village of Chiusdino, near Montesiepi. House where he lived Rotondauntil the time of his conversion, and inside the house, on a side of the altar dedicated to the saint, we can see the big rock.
Galgano (Gawain in English) died three years later in complete poverty, and in 1185 Pope Lucius III declared it holy. His beatification in 3 days and his sanctification in 4 years are surely a record. But somehow he was quickly forgotten as the abbey abandoned itself. Was Galgano an uncomfortable saint?

He was elected as patron of the city of Siena Galgano  skulland then replaced and downgraded to a lesser saint. In this church in Chiusdino, in a showcase, now remains only part of the skull of the saint. It is said that on the skull once grew up some blond hair, and this brought locals to elect him as the protector of bald people. In the years immediately following his death, on his hermitage was built a little church, known as the Rotonda or Montesiepi Chapel. The GPR has discovered a rectangular cavity present beneath the floor of the Rotunda. What will be it?
A few decades later, in 1218, began the building of the monumental complex of San Galgano, about 30 km west of Siena, which was consecrated in 1288. The Abbey of San Galgano has been for centuries an important road center and reference point for travelers, pilgrims and people of all kinds.
Abbazia_di_San_GalganoFrom 1348 onwards began the decline, due to different misadventures the abbey was abandoned over the years, until to become a dilapidated structure, then deconsecrated in 1789. The first restoration began in 1926 with the aim of preserving what remained of the original structure, which, strangely shares similarities with the Abbey of Glastonbury.
The Chapel of Montesiepi is, however, a small church located on a hill a few hundred yards from the abbey, and in the center of the chapel emerges from the floor the “Sword in the Stone“.
Some scholars point out that there are links between the story of San Galgano, and King Arthur’sSword in the Stone one, in fact both events took place in the twelfth century and between the name Galgano and Gawain, an Arthurian knight, there is particular similarity. But we are in the presence of situations in which history is mixed with myth and it is difficult to have certainty, although some coincidences and documentation that you will read in this post, bring us to hypothesize that Galgano’s sword is the one mentioned in the story of King Arthur and his knights.
The sword, at least judging from the visible portion protruding from the rock, seems to correspond exactly with regard to style, with a real sword of the twelfth century, and more precisely to the kind  Xa. ,according to the “Ewart Oakeshott universally accepted classification”. One of the leading experts on medieval swords, adviser to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, author of several books on the subject. The analysis of small fragments indicate values that are normal for a medieval bonesmetal without the presence of alloys or steels of the following years.
Inside the hermitage of Montesiepi are also preserved a couple of limbs that, according to tradition, belong to one of three envious people that, in 1181, in the absence of San Galgano, attempted to seize the sword,  but failing then they broke it. Galgano felt all this in a dream and, gone back immediately to Montesiepi, unleashed on the three traitors monks the God’s wrath. One of them drowned in the river, the second was struck by lightning and the third devoured by a wolf that tore his arms. Theabbazia backdating, performed by carbon-14 method, in the course of analysis has traced that these hands, kept in the hermitage, are of the twelfth century.
Montesiepi, where stands the monastery of San Galgano, alludes to a sacred place, enclosed by hedges, hidden to outsiders because above were celebrated pagan rites and sacrifices. This tradition of fencing was typical of Celtic sacred sites. Another oddity is the old name for Montesiepi: Cerboli, reminiscent of the Deer (cervo in Italian), the sacred animal of the Celts, as the name of a near village, called  Brenna, would recall the Celtic hero Bran. The same hermitage of San Galgano is an enigma. It’s built in a circle, often considered a demonic form, because linked to the ancient pagan temples. The vault is formed by concentric circles, whose center is perfectly at the zenith of the sword. The
48 circles consisting of white stones and red bricks recall the circular Celtic decorations. Stones that weirdly have been dated 150 years older than the structure.

Arcidosso, in the province of Grosseto, is dotted with ancient esoteric grottosymbols that speak also of the Knights Templar, while in the near Mount Amiata is a rather strange cave. Grotto, whose history is lost in the mists of time, which not even the local youths know its existence. Is this the cave where, according to legend, Merlin the magician repaired? Merlin the magician was not stood still in Scotland, but is said to have traveled the world to share his knowledge and acquire other, and who knows if he has not come even in Tuscany. It’s a massive cave beneath a chestnut, now partially collapsed and drowned by shrubs, and its opening once had a broken stone now missing, which carried the inscription: “This is the ancient and memorable cave builtcavern by Merlin, the wise magician, here Peri, the natural induced muse, explained his genius portentous and vague“.  Gian Domenico Peri was a local poet (1564 – 1639). By a geo-radar has been found that  in the soil of the cave there are some metallic objects, with one large and circular. Who knows.
An ancient legend tells that in this area there was a dragon (Santa Fiora’s dragon). The friars of the convent of La Selva, near the village of Santa Fiora, had noticed for some time the presence of a hideous and gigantic dragon, which had established in the woods. It not only ate cows, sheep and other animals, but its ferocity came to kill a man a day, choosing among shepherds, woodcutters and friars, who were so decimated. The friars sought help from the Count Guido, belonging to the families of Aldobrandeschi and Bosio Sforza, who was unable to kill the animal and so they decided to seek help from the wizard Merlin, who at that time had taken up residence in a cave in the dragonwoods between Arcidosso and San Lorenzo. It is said that Merlin summoned the “knight Giorgio” because he had already killed vicious dragons, and for this became a saint, and subsequently patron saint of Genoa. He was immediately welcomed by Count Guido of Santa Fiora and monks in the monastery and with the help of Merlin, the knight George was able to kill the dragon, finally. It is said that the jaw preserved by the monks in the vestry of the Chiesa della Trinità, which is part of the convent of La Selva, is precisely that of the monstrous dragon.

Coincidences, parallelisms, similarities or reality and truth …. who knows!