April 25, 2015

Feast of the Madonna delle Armi

Viva Maria!
Photo courtesy of Olivia Cerrone
By Giovanni di Napoli
April 25th is the Feast of the Madonna delle Armi, or Our Lady of the Cave.(1) She is the patroness of Cerchiara di Calabria, an ancient town in the province of Cosenza, in northeastern Calabria. The accompanying photos (courtesy of Olivia Cerrone) were taken at the Santuario Santa Maria dell Armi on the slopes of Mount Sellaro above Cerchiara. Built in the fifteenth century over the ruins of a Byzantine monastery, the sanctuary houses a sacred stone depicting the Blessed Mother and Child.
According to legend, in 1450 a group of hunters from nearby Rossano were tracking a stag through the oak woods of Mount Sellaro. As they closed in on their prey the animal ascended the rocky ridge and squeezed into a small cave in the side of the mountain. The huntsmen followed the deer into the crevice, but to their surprise the animal was nowhere to be found; instead they discovered two wooden tablets depicting the Holy Evangelists. Excited about their discovery the hunters decided to take the icons back to Rossano. Continue reading

Feast of the Madonna Incoronata

Viva Maria!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
The last Saturday of April is the Feast of the Madonna Incoronata (Our Lady Crowned), an ancient tradition dating back to the beginning of the second millennium A.D.  To commemorate the occasion, I'm posting Praise to the Queen of Heaven (Salvi Rigina), a traditional Marian prayer from Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated by Peppino Ruggeri.(1) The accompanying photo was taken at St Lucy's Church, National Shrine of Saint Gerard in Newark, New Jersey.  
According to legend, the Count of Ariano got lost while hunting in the forest near the River Cervaro in Foggia, Puglia. He took refuge in a nearby cottage when the woods turned unusually dark. At dawn the Count noticed a bright light shining through the trees. Drawn to the mysterious radiance, a vision of the Madonna appeared before him. Wearing a magnificent crown and levitating above a large oak tree the Blessed Mother revealed a statue of the Black Madonna perched in the branches. Awestricken, the Count promised to build a chapel to house her miraculous icon.
Soon after, a shepherd named Strazzacappa, who was grazing his oxen close by, was also drawn to the light. Immediately recognizing the vision as the Blessed Mother, the humble herdsman set up a makeshift votive lamp with his caldarella beneath the tree in her honor. It is said that the oil was not consumed by the flame.
The Count fulfilled his vow and news of the miracle spread far and wide. The shrine quickly became a popular destination for devotees and those making the pilgrimage to the nearby Sanctuary of the Archangel Michael at Monte Sant'Angelo in the Gargano peninsula. Today, after several renovations, the Basilica Santuario Madre di Dio Incoronata is a major religious center visited by thousands annually. The Black Madonna and a branch from the oak are still on display.
Praise to the Queen of Heaven
Hail to you Mary, Mother of Mercy
Life, sweetness, and spring of joy
In you we trust when in trouble or pain
To you we come when we are in tears
In affliction your comfort we obtain.

Hear our pleas, our sweet defender
Virgin Mother with all sorrow laden
To our God you prayers direct
Because our actions have no effect
The door of paradise open to all
When death for comes to call. Amen.

(1) Prayers and Devotional Songs of Sicily, edited and translated into English by Peppino Ruggeri, Legas 2009, p.139

April 23, 2015

Feast of San Giorgio

Viva San Giorgio!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
April 23rd is the Feast Day of San Giorgio di Lydda (St. George of Lydda), patron saint of valor, chivalry and soldiers. Widely venerated across southern Italy, he is the principal protector of Reggio Calabria (RC), Modica (RG), Ragusa (RG), Prizzi (PA) and Barano d'Ischia (NA), among others. In commemoration of the great warrior saint I'm posting a Prayer to Saint George. The accompanying photo was taken at Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary and Saint Stephen's Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Invocation of Saint George
Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. Amen

April 22, 2015

April 21, 2015

Titan of the South: Francesco de Mura

Two door panels with
Faith, Hope and putti 
attributed to Francesco de Mura,
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
In recent years I've made it a personal goal to pay homage to some of my favorite Southern Italian artists on their birthdays by viewing their works in person. Somehow, this tradition makes me feel connected to the artists; their greatness is a source of inspiration and pride. It's a simple gesture on my part and I find it to be a very rewarding.
Luckily for me I have easy access to a few of their works, thanks to the proximity of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unfortunately, due to the museum's vast collection and limited space (which is mind boggling considering the massive size of the place), I was unable to view Francesco De Mura's preparatory sketch for The Assumption of the Virgin because it was out of circulation. A very helpful gentleman at the information desk told me that the museum rotates their collection, but sometimes it takes as long as three years before some works are put back on public display. He did, however, give me a phone number to request a special viewing of the drawings and prints in storage, but they need at least two weeks advanced notice.
Needless to say, it's impossible to stay disappointed at the MET for very long. The institution is home to one of the world's greatest art collections and I was not about to waste an opportunity to take some of it in. I made my way to the European Painting galleries on the second floor and leisurely wondered through its hallowed halls. Gazing in awe, I found myself surrounded by the esteemed works of some of Europe's most celebrated artists: Diego Velázquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, El Greco, Caravaggio, Anthony van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, Jusepe de Ribera, et alContinue reading

April 20, 2015

Photo of the Week: Painted Ceramic Wall in Vietri

Painted ceramic wall depicting a Saracen slave raid in Vietri sul Mare 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

April 19, 2015

Titan of the South: Corrado Giaquinto

The Penitent Magdalen
by Corrado Giaquinto
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
When I first viewed The Penitent Magdalen by Corrado Giaquinto at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was surprised to see that it was classified as Italian. I wondered about that, because many of the "Italian" paintings are classified by region. At first I thought it might be an oversight, or possibly a slight against the artist's birthplace in Puglia. Uncomfortable with my own wild speculation I decided to investigate. I found that the regional labels had more to do with particular artistic styles than the origin of the artists themselves, although in many cases they were identical. Corrado Giaquinto was a special case. He was known to adopt the style of the various locations where he painted, making classification difficult, and his work even more interesting.
Corrado Giaquinto was born in Molfetta, Puglia, in 1703. At sixteen he travelled to Naples and studied under the tutelage of Nicola Maria Rossi, a pupil of Francesco Solimena. Eventually, he would receive art instruction from the Neapolitan master himself. After several years of apprenticeship in Solimena's studio Giaquinto would seek his fortunes elsewhere. Unfortunately, only one work by the artist from this period is known to exist, a copy of one of Solimena's paintings. Continue reading

April 18, 2015

Feast Day Mass in the Extraordinary Form for Saint George at the Church of the Holy Innocents in NYC

Sponsored by the American Delegation of the Sacred Constantinian Military Order of St. George
Church of the Holy Innocents
128 W 37th Street
New York, NY 10018

On Thursday, April 23rd at 6:00 pm, at the Church of the Holy Innocents in Manhattan, the American Delegation of the Sacred Constantinian Military Order of St. George will sponsor on the occasion of their patronal feast day an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata to be sung by the Very Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Ambrosio, Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newark, New Jersey, and personal chaplain to His Excellency Cavaliere John Viola, Delegate. A choir will sing Mercadante's Mass for Three Voices, and following Mass, a first class relic of the Martyr St. George will be venerated by the faithful.
Members in Church Mantle shall assemble at 5:30 PM.

Announcing the 2015 Feast of Maria Santissima Della Misericordia, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

For more info visit the Società Maria SS. Della Misericordia of Facebook

Announcing the 45th Anniversary Feast of Maria Santissima Incoronata, Orange, New Jersey

For more information visit Maria SS. Incoronata on Facebook

April 17, 2015

A Brief Sketch: Onofrio Avellino

Madonna in Glory
with Saints and Angels 
by Onofrio Avellino
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Little is known about Onofrio Avellino's life. He was probably born in 1674 in Naples and as his surname suggests, his family may have originally hailed from Avellino, a small town nestled between the foothills of the Apennine Mountains in Campania. He first apprenticed under Luca Giordano in Naples, sometimes putting finishing touches on his master's work. In fact, Avellino was so adept at emulating his instructor the copies are often mistaken for the original. His older brother, Giulio Giacinto Avellino, was also a painter.
After Giordano's departure to Spain in 1692 Avellino trained with Francesco Solimena. Under his new teacher's guidance the young artist drifted away from the vibrant Giordanesque style of painting towards a more classical idiom. He painted a variety of subjects, though portraits were considered his forte. Examples of Avellino's early work can be found in the small coastal town of Vico Equense and the Church of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. Continue reading

April 16, 2015

A Look at the 2015 Festa Della Madonna Dell'Arco in Ridgewood, Queens

The fujenti arrive at the church with a picture of the Madonna dell'Arco
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Sunday, April 12th, dozens of pilgrims and fujenti (devotees of the Madonna of the Arch) gathered at St. Matthias Church in Ridgewwod, Queens for the Third Annual Festa Della Madonna Dell'Arco. Mass was celebrated in Italian with Father Vincent Miceli, followed by a short procession around the parish to the nearby Peter Cardella Senior Citizen Center. The celebration continued inside the center's Senator Maltese Hall, where about 200 revelers enjoyed a sumptuous meal, terrific music and lots of dancing with DJ Millennium.

I want to thank Nicola Trombetta, President of the Federazione delle Associazioni della Campania USA, for inviting me. Special thanks to President Giovanni Toscano, his wife Barbara and the rest of the Società Madonna SS. dell'Arco for their hard work and giving us this wonderful opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate our faith and our culture. I had a terrific time and look forward to celebrating with you again next year. Evviva Maria!
Entering Saint Matthias Church
Devotees kneel and pray before the image of the Blessed Mother
After Mass, members of the Società Madonna SS. dell'Arco gather outside Saint Matthias Church for a few pictures
It's alway great to see our friends from the Società Gioventú Quagliettana
The procession saunters through the neighborhood
A good turnout on a beautiful Sunday afternoon
The fujenti sang hymns along the way
(Above and below) celebrants pose for pictures with the image of the Madonna
back at the Peter Cardella Senior Citizen Center
Frances (right) and the gang enjoying the festivities at the center
For more photos visit us on Pinterest

April 15, 2015

Corrado Alvaro: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Corrado Alvaro
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
By Giovanni di Napoli
Not too long ago, while discussing with some friends the tenets of Tom Verso's article, Towards an American Terroni "Education Manifesto," one name came up repeatedly as a "must-read" candidate for any future curriculum specializing in Southern Italian historiography—Corrado Alvaro. Embarrassed that I've only read his Revolt in Aspromonte, I dusted off my copy and reread it. Subsequently, I made it a point to find other works by the author, but discovered that only two others—Man is Strong and The Long Night of Medea—were available in English. Luckily, I found the former at my local library and the later at a used bookstore. Needless to say, now I understand why my friends were so adamant about his inclusion.
Corrado Alvaro was a prominent literary figure during the Fascist era whose literature often explored the social and political crises of the twentieth century. Alvaro's collection of short stories, especially his Gente d'Aspromonte (People in Aspromonte), has been acknowledged as a precursor to the Italian neorealismo or neorealist movement prevalent after World War II. He is also credited with important contributions to the development of narrativa meridionale, a literary tradition focusing on the narrative of Southern Italy. Continue reading

The Colossus of Watts

Sam Rodia – Designer and Builder of the Watts Towers
Sabato (“Sam” or “Simon”) Rodia
Photo courtesy of www.Wattstowers.us
By Niccoló Graffio
“Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and also experience them.” – Lyof N. Tolstoy: What is Art?, 1898
When I was a teenager my father would take us every summer down south to places like South Carolina and Florida. On one of those trips we visited Coral Castle, a sprawling stone structure located just north of the city of Homestead, Florida in Miami-Dade County.
Coral Castle is a remarkable edifice consisting of hundreds of tons of oolitic limestone that have been shaped into furniture, walls, carvings and a castle tower. The largest of these stones weighs 30 tons. What makes Coral Castle all the more incredible is the fact the entire structure was apparently built by only one man, an eccentric Latvian immigrant by the name of Edward Leedskalnin! The methods Leedskalnin used in building Coral Castle are shrouded in mystery. When questioned he always gave polite but evasive answers. Though some claim to have figured out how he did it, to this day it remains a mystery. If you ever travel down to Miami-Dade County, Florida it’s worth a trip to see Coral Castle. Continue reading

April 14, 2015

One Tin Soldier

The Frank Serpico Story
Frank Serpico (Photo courtesy of The Free Info Society)
By Niccoló Graffio
“When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,The post of honor is a private station.”– Joseph Addison: Cato, IV, 1713
Francesco Vincent “Frank” Serpico was born on April 14th, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Vincenzo Serpico, was born in the town of Marigliano, in the province of Naples, in the region of Campania, Italy. His mother, Maria Giovanna, was born in Ohio but returned with her family when she was young to Italy where she later met and married Vincenzo.
Frank Serpico’s childhood was an innocuous one. At the age of 18 he joined the U.S. Army and was shipped off to Korea, where he remained stationed for two years. Returning home, he enrolled in Brooklyn College, CUNY, while working part-time as a private investigator and youth counselor.
He joined the New York City Police Department in 1959 at the age of 23, being sworn in as a probationary patrolman on September 11th of the same year. On March 5th, 1960 he was commissioned a patrolman for the NYPD. His first assignment was in the 81st precinct (in the north-central area of Brooklyn). He would hold the job of patrolman for 12 years. He then worked for two years in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), doing “exciting” police work such as filing fingerprints. Continue reading

April 13, 2015

Photo of the Week: The Bay of Naples

A view of the world famous Bay of Naples 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

April 12, 2015

Around the Web (April 2015)

Items of interests from around the web
Curiosities: The Easter Hand at Calabria the Other Italy
The Easter Hand of Rutilio Benincasa
Courtesy of Calabria the Other Italy
We’ve all read our horoscopes whether or not we actually believe in them. Could there really be something to the positioning of the stars, the alignment of the planets, the lunar cycle? Nowadays we have so many facts at our fingertips, but are we any closer to understanding where the individual fits in with the tides or the cosmos? Continue reading

Cimaruta pendant
A Word About the Cimaruta at Naples: Life, Death & Miracles
In 1897 E. Neville-Rolfe published Naples in the Nineties, a delightful account of the city of the period. At a certain point in talking about local traditions, he writes:
We are now in a position to consider the Cimaruta, a charm still made for and worn by the infants of the labouring classes. Years ago the use of these charms prevailed in the higher classes of society, and they were then more elaborately constructed, being made with more emblems, thicker metal, and superior workmanship. The charm itself is known by the name of cimaruta, a Neapolitan word signifying a “sprig of rue.”
 Continue reading

Announcing the 70th Anniversary Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Verona, New Jersey

April 11, 2015

The Search for our Ancestry (XI)

Identifying Your Ancestral Town
By Angelo Coniglio
Most censuses give a person’s age at their last birthday before the date of the census, from which an approximate birth year can be determined.  In addition, often the following information is listed: date of arrival in the U.S.; country of origin; whether naturalized; occupation; and address. Family members living at the same address are shown with the same information as above for each member. A man and wife’s record may also include their ‘age at first marriage’ or ‘year of marriage’, but the wife’s maiden name is not given.  The children’s names may be helpful if you remember the naming convention previously discussed.  The first name of a man’s oldest son would be the same as the man’s father; oldest daughter named after his mother, etc.  Children’s names may help to confirm the person’s identity when other records are found.  If you plan to research the wife named in a census, the younger children’s names may reflect her parents’ given names.
Having the census information, you can search on-line for the person’s ship passenger manifest by first and last name, at libertyellisiforundation.org, castlegarden.org, or Ancestry.com. Use the census information to narrow the search to those who fit. The most commonly used of these sources is the free site libertyellisiforundation.org (formerly ellisisland.org) which has over 25 million passenger records, and the following discussion refers to that site. 
When you log on to HYPERLINK libertyellisfoundation.org, if it is your first use, you’ll be asked to join or contribute to the Ellis Island Foundation, but this is optional.  But you must register, for free, with a user name and password.  Future searches may ask for those, but there is no charge to do the searches.  After registering or signing in click the PASSENGER SEARCH box. Here you can enter the person’s name, as it was spelled in the ‘old country’. You can select “results” at this point, but that may return a long list to sort through, of persons with the same name.  You can also click on‘Wizard’.  Then, on the drop-down menu, click the right arrow until you see slide bars for Year of Birth, Current Age, Age at Arrival, Year of Arrival (i.e., age at the time of immigration), Month of Arrival and Day of Arrival. Don’t be intimidated. If you don’t know a fact, enter only the facts you do know. If your search is too general (last name only, or even first and last names), you may get TOO MUCH information, with hundreds of names to sort through.   
If your search is too specific (searching first and last names, exact year of birth, and gender, etc.), you may get NO matches. This is not necessarily because the person’s name is not in the database, but may be because the recorded data (whether correct or not) doesn’t exactly match your search criteria. For example, obviously your grandfather Andrea Petix was a male, but whoever entered the information in the original manifest or in the database may have interpreted ‘Andrea’ as a female name and entered the gender as female.  Therefore, your nannu wouldn’t show up if you searched for males only!
I usually start my search with my best guess for the first name and surname, and press the RESULTS box. That will produce either a message saying no one by that name was found, or a list of folks with the requested first name and surname. It may contain as few as one, or as many as hundreds of folks with the same name.  Here’s where the census information comes in.  The Ellis Island list will show first and last name; residence, year of arrival; the name of the ship, and other information. Study the list to see if there is anyone with your ancestor’s name whose arrival year and other information matches the information you found on the census.  If you’re reasonably certain of these facts, you may limit the search by the slide bars mentioned above, before you click on the RESULTS box, to reduce the number of names returned.  Select one of the names in the list shown, and click the ‘Ship Manifest’ icon on the far right.
You’ll see a display with the pertinent information above a ‘thumbnail’ of the manifest.  Moving your cursor over the thumbnail will enlarge it for reading.  I urge you to look closely at the image of the manifest, and do your own interpretation of the names and other information, rather than trusting someone else’s transcription. Hand-copy the information, or order a copy ($20 - $30).  Before mid-1907, there was one page per manifest; after that there were two pages, and both pages are important. Very early records may give only the country of birth. Manifests for about 1900 to mid-1907 give the town of last residence, and from mid-1907 on, both the last residence and town of birth are given. Once you’ve found the manifest for the right person, you can navigate back for a ship image ($10 - $12.50), or a diploma-like ‘passenger record’ ($30). Warning: if there are misspellings of the name or town, or other errors, they will also be in error on the purchased passenger record.
Coniglio is the author of the book The Lady of the Wheel, inspired by his Sicilian research. Order the paperback or the Kindle version at http://bit.ly/SicilianStory. Coniglio’s web page at http://bit.ly/AFCGen has helpful hints on genealogic research. If you have genealogy questions, or would like him to lecture to your club or group, e-mail him at genealogytips@aol.com

April 10, 2015

Crowd Turns Out For Montedoro

Photo Courtesy of the Craco Society
Reprinted from the April 2015 Craco Society Bulletin  
“Montedoro” the film made its World Premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival and was greeted with a warm turnout. Film maker Antonello Faretta and a dedicated team from Noeltan Film Studio, enjoyed the attention given to the movie. 
Lena Camperlengo, a Craco Society Director serving as the host, opened the event with a heartfelt introduction saying, “It started with a dream. Montedoro called to a hermit; some say he was a monk. This man came to live on the hillside to escape the wars and conflicts of men below and devote his attention to spiritual matters. It started with a mother's heartbroken choice to send her daughter to America for a future she could not provide in the hillside town. But Craco called the daughter home. It started with a water leak. In a water system meant to improve the lives of the people of Craco. Instead, it undermined the geology and caused a landslide. The town now sits abandoned. The landslide swept away half the town and its cultural heritage. It started with 5 curious amateur genealogists eager to reclaim their families' heritage. Forming the Craco Society they have grown into more than 400 sons and daughters of Craco scattered around the world. It started with a dream. A vision held by Antonello, Adriana and Pia to tell the story of a place that continues to call us home.” 
Craco Society Director Lena Camperlengo (Center) with Antonello Faretta and Adriana Bruno from Noeltan Films at the after party
Faretta and Society member Pia Marie Mann, who is the star, were hosted at a promotional event after the showing by The Craco Society using grant funds awarded by the Basilicata Regional Authority. The Society was also the sponsoring host at the Premiere. 
The film addresses a question about identity and roots, that Faretta portrays by drawing on the story of Pia Marie Mann who was born in Craco and adopted as a four year old by a family in New York. She returned 59 years later to find her birth mother. Using that story as the background, Faretta adds the effort by Craco’s community to reconstruct its identity and his own questions about his identity. 
The Society assisted in the production by providing historic material and photographs that appear in the film and sponsoring the Atlanta showing. 

April 8, 2015

Via Crucis – The Way of the Cross 2015

Bensonhurst’s Traditional Good Friday Procession
Devotees carry the statue of the Dead Christ through the neighborhood
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Thousands marched through the streets of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, this Good Friday (April 3rd) in the annual Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, candlelight procession commemorating the Passion of Christ.  Led by The Most Reverend Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, members of several Italian American societies and congregations participated, including Saint Athanasius, Saint Dominic, Regina Pacis, Saints Simon and Jude, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Finbar, Saint Mary Mother of Jesus, Saint Bernadette and Saint Frances Cabrini.

Carrying banners, crosses, and statues of the Madonna Addolorata and the Dead Christ, devotees recited prayers and sang hymns during the nearly two-hour-long procession. Fortunately, we were blessed with terrific weather and the rain threatened in the forecast never materialized.
Rotating between the churches, this year Saint Finbar had the honor of hosting the Benediction and brief prayer service. Bishop DiMarzio concluded the outdoor ceremony in English and Italian with a solemn blessing with the Relic of the True Cross.

Before leaving, flowers from the statues were distributed among the women and children. We said our goodbyes and boarded our charted bus back to our parish.
I offer my heartfelt thanks to the organizers for a job well done. Special thanks to John Cordi and the Holy Name Society of Saint Bernadette for their hard work and dedication. It was an honor to march with them. 
Not far behind the Dead Christ, participants carry Our Lady of Sorrows
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio walks in quiet reflection
Members of Gruppo Italiano Sant'Atanasio (G.I.S.A.)
John Cordi and members of the Holy Name Society of Saint Bernadette
Members of the Sacred Heart League and the St. Frances Cabrini Society of Brooklyn join together in song and prayer
Members of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Members of the Italian-American Apostolate of St. Mary, Mother of Jesus Parish
The Knights of Columbus served as Honor Guard
It was great to see so many young people participate in this year's procession
Red Mike Festival Band
Rocco and John Cordi with Stephen La Rocca, President of the Saint Rocco Society of Potenza in New York City
Bishop DiMarzio offers his blessing with the Relic of the True Cross
For more photos visit us on Pinterest