Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Trullo in Time

Pictures taken of the same scene at different periods in time are always evocative. I believe the following two pictures are of the same trullo. Notice that there is a child seated in the exact same spot.

from a 1930's era National Geographic article 

 STONE SHELTERS by Eward Allen 1969

Edward Allen, the author of "Stone Shelters" cited the February 1930 issue of National Geographic in a footnote so there is the possibility that he set up the picture. It is also curious that the address number is not the same.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A brindisi to "intellect" from a contadino

A brindisi is an Italian word for a toast. The root of the word is from an old German phrase meaning "I offer it to you" (Ich bring dir es). The town of Brindisi  may have influenced the contraction of the phrase, but the words are not etymologically related.

Here the caretaker and his dog, Vigilante, entertain the author and her company with a salute to "Intellect".

This excerpt is from:


The Land of Manfred, Prince of Tarentum and King of Sicily:Rambles in Remote Parts of Southern Italy, with special reference to their historical associations


by Janet Ross

Illustrated by Carlo Orsi




The Land of Manfred  by Janet Ross, 




Terra Di Bari

 Here is a description of the Terra Di Bari from the:

"Penny Cyclopaedia, of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge" published by Charles Knight, London, 1835


   One of the fifteen provinces of the continental part of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It extends about eighty miles along the coast of the Adriatic from the river Ofanto, the ancient Aufidus, which divides it from the province of Capitanata, to within five miles north-west of Ostuni, which is the first town of the Terra d'Otranto on that side.

    Inland the province of Bari extends about thirty-five miles as far as the range of high hills, which, detaching itself from the central ridge of the Apennines, near Venosa, runs in an easterly direction towards the Adriatic, dividing the waters that flow into that sea from those which fall into the Gulf of Taranto. This range divides the province of Bari from that of Basilicata. 

   Altamura, the last town of Bari on that side, is at the foot of the range. It is one of the most populous provinces of the kingdom; and that strip of it which extends along the sea-coast, and about ten miles inland, is one of the most fertile and best-cultivated countries in Italy. It is studded with a number of towns at a few miles distance from each other, such as Barletta, Trani, Bisceglia, Molfetta, Giovenazzo, Bari, Mola, Polignano, Monopoli, Fasano; and inland, but still within a few miles of the coast, Andria, Ruvo, Nola, Bitonto, Bitetto, Conversano, &c.

Several of these towns have from 12,000 to 18,000 inhabitants, and the rest from 4000 to 8000: the whole population of the province is about 420,000. The interior of the country is much less populous than the maritime districts, vast tracts of it being left for pasture or being overgrown with woods. This part is covered with calcareous hills ; the valleys are susceptible of good cultivation.

Both the Terra di Bari and the Terra d'Otranto are called by the natives Puglia pietrosa, ' stony Puglia,' in opposition to Capitanata, which is called Puglia piana, ' flat Puglia." 

The province of Bari has no rivers except the Ofanto, which flows along its north-western border ; but abundant springs are found at little depth underground, and supply water for the purpose of irrigation.

The principal productions of the country are oil, corn, wine, silk, soda, and an abundance of fruit. Oil and corn are the chief articles of export.

The towns on the coast, especially Barletta and Bari, carry on a considerable trade with Trieste, Venice, the coast of Dalmatia, the Ionian Islands, &c. There are some manufactures of linen at Molfetta, and ship-building is carried on in all the maritime towns. The harbours, are only fit for very small vessels.

The climate, though very hot, is generally healthy, except in some spots where the water from the heavy rains is allowed to accumulate and stagnate. A good carriage-road runs along the coast from Barletta to Mola, a distance of forty miles, and this tract of country, called La Marina di Bari, is much boasted of by the inhabitants for its fertile appearance and high state of cultivation. Another and a more inland line of road runs parallel to the first, passing through Andria, Ruvo, Bitonto, &c. 

The province of Bari is administered by an intendente, or civil governor,who resides at Bari, but the civil and criminal courts of judicature are established at Trani. The province is divided into three districts Bari, Barletta, and Altamura ; and the whole is subdivided into thirty-seven giudicatore inferiori, having each a magistrate or inferior judge.

BARI, the chief town of the province, is situated on a slip of land which projects into the sea, and is 140 miles E. by N. of Naples, in 41° 8' N. lat., and 16° 55' E. long. It was called Barium (Bapiov, Strabo) under the Romans, and was one of the towns of Apulia. At one epoch it was probably a Greek colony, though nothing appears to be known as to its origin."

 Below is a link to the original.

"Penny Cyclopaedia, of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge" published by Charles Knight, London, 1835

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Rose of Auricarro


This legend originated in the area of Palo del Colle in the year 1349. At that time someone fleeing from the pillaging by invaders of an outlying area buried a crucifix made of fig wood. Years later, on barren ground during a season of extended drought, a peasant noticed a single rose growing between the crack in the parched earth. The peasant couldn't believe his eyes. He decided to transplant the rose but could not root it out. He dug a wide pit around it and there before his eyes were the roots of the rose entwined around the crucifix of Auricarro. 
Because it was found at their border the adjoining towns of Palo and Toritto had a dispute over who could claim the cross. To decide which town would possess the cross two oxen were yoked to a cart and were allowed to approach a crossroads without human direction. The oxen took the road to Palo deciding the possession of the cross. Since then the cross lies in the Church of the Madonna del Porta and is brought in procession every spring past Auricarro where it was found over six centuries ago.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Castel Del Monte

A collectible card from a jar of "meat extract"....boullion?  Go figure...but I like the picture.

Village Justice

 Calabrian peasant bride by Francesco Cozza

Community, Family, and Popular Culture in Early Modern Italy,  Tommaso Astarita

  All men are created equal? We are not used to seeing a question mark after that sentence. It is treading on dangerous ground even to suggest it. In our  developing, coerced "egalitarian" society there are those who have been ostracized for daring, even unwittingly in the course of unbiased research, to consider the question.

   Every child entering the social arena whether it be school or sports soon discovers the difference in the abilities of their peers. They are then forced by those currently in charge to accept another ideal.

   The best that could be hoped for would be that " all men are equal in the eyes of the law". But man-made law is just that and as such can be remade, applied differently, or simply ignored. There are also specious legal arguments that find a way around this ideal. We read about these decisions everyday. An equality that is enforced is a contradiction in terms. Reality will always intrude despite our best intentions and reveal itself.

   Our English based jury system provides many advantages to the accused. A trial by a "jury of your peers" provides a safeguard against unjust laws that may be imposed by a ruling class. How many people are aware they they have this right of jury nullification. They may decide the case however they choose regardless of what a judge may "charge" them to do. If you ever need to avoid jury duty just tell the judge when interviewed that you are aware of your rights as a fully informed juror

   The court wants to have full control to steer the trial in their chosen direction and will most likely dismiss you immediately. This is  a shirking of our obligations as citizens, but how many can afford the economic cost of being sequestered on a jury for an indefinite length of time. This makes the potential jury pool consist of the financially independent or those on welfare. Can the middle-class get a fair trial by their peers in this situation? 

   In Village Justice Tommaso Astarita treats us to a detailed study of a criminal trial from 1710 that occurred in a remote corner of Calabria. Using the original transcripts he shows the way justice was applied in a feudal society. He also shows that the Kingdom of Naples of the time was definitely in the center of European thought on judicial theory and its application, and once again how the people of southern Italy are often underestimated and misrepresented.

"   Certain notions have long accompanied the image of southern Italian villages in the minds of foreigners, and indeed often Italian observers. Ideas of poverty and backwardness, of isolation and alienness, of illiteracy and ignorance, and of beliefs and ritual practices understandable at best through anthropological analysis have long characterized outside observers' perceptions of rural society in regions south of Rome and Naples. I do not reject all these characterizations, and, indeed in this book I stress the significance of some of them. I argue, however, that the southern villages were similar to those of many regions of western Europe. More important, although undoubtedly poor and often remote, they were home to dynamic and flexible communities that were able  effectively to handle their internal tensions, to maintain a lively and autonomous culture, and to interact frequently and successfully with external authorities. The land was often formidable and the villagers mostly illiterate, but southern Italian rural people were far from passive and fatalistic victims of larger natural or human forces."pg xii

    Pentidattilo is considered to be typical of many such small towns in the Kingdom of Naples of the time. It is located at the tip of the toe of Calabria, 5 kilometers inland from the coast in an easily defended location below a group of jutting peaks which suggest five fingers; hence the name which is of Greek origin. As in many areas of Southern Italy the population centers shifted here to escape the malarial coasts and the predation of Muslim raiders, and also to enjoy the "good air" of the heights.

The now  abandoned comune of Pentidattilo

   The local dialect shows the influence of early Byzantine Greek settlement. After the depopulation caused by the Black Death further settlement was encouraged by the rulers of the kingdom and Greek speakers naturally found a home here. The Greek dialect was still reported to be spoken into the eighteenth century and official documents still contained Greek spellings and names. Professor Astarita doesn't consider this Greek influence to have been a significant factor differentiating it from any other "Latin" Calabrian town. 

   The area of Pentidattilo is hot in summer, deforested, earthquake prone and contains only seasonally flowing rivers. Despite this there were many small peasant holdings which produced grain, olives and fruit.  The economy was self sufficient and only entered international markets with the introduction of mulberry trees for silk production and later in the 1700's with citrus fruit production.

   At the time of the story Pentidattilo was still a self sufficient organic community and the villagers were highly dependent on each other  for survival. There were no deep economic divisions between it's citizens. Outsiders, better described as persons of undetermined integrity were suspect. Is this the negative "characterization" Professor Astarita doesn't reject? However, in the author's words:

"...The villagers shaped a lively, autonomous culture which long maintained its own values, rules, and traditions. Personal honor and achievements,which were reflected in each villager's reputation, remained more important than inherited wealth or status within the local community." pg XVII

"...Village culture was characterized by a practical attitude, and when villagers took a negative view of their neighbors, it happened less on the basis of abstract notions of morality than because someone's actions endangered the stability or well-being of the community. Judgment was much more severe with outsiders than with well-integrated members of the village." pg 139

   The small size of Pentidattilo enabled it to maintain a surprisingly democratic form of governing by all male heads of household. Larger and more prosperous areas soon developed an oligarchy based on wealth.

"The village was administered by two mayors (sindaci) and four or five eldermen (eletti) who all served one year terms..." pg 130

   The crime in question, at the center of this study, was murder by poisoning. Domenica Orlando was accused of poisoning her husband with the help of a neighbor and friend Anna de Amico, ten years her senior, and Pietro Crea, her lover. The accusation of poisoning and also abortion was brought by the victim's brother.The circumstances of the death and a subsequent investigation of the body by the local "barber" indicate that a poisoning did occur. There was further testimony by a young girl who fetched the arsenic which was in use locally to control rodents.

   The trial was held in a feudal court as opposed to a royal court. In cases such as this appeal could later be brought to the attention of the royal courts.

"Like many noble landowners throughout Europe, Neapolitan lords enjoyed the right of jurisdiction over practically all inhabitants of the villages and towns enfeoffed to them. Until the abolition of the feudal system in 1806, the term vassals was indeed used for all those subject to their lord's jurisdiction in the Kingdom of Naples. The Neapolitan feudal lords (known also as barons) were, however peculiar both in the extent of their jurisdictional powers and in the percentage of the kingdom's population subject to those powers." pp. 48,49

   The trial was conducted by a feudal governor appointed by the baron. The governor in charge of this case had no training in the law and was therefore assisted by a counselor. A scribe from the town wrote out the record of the proceedings as well as assisted in the translation and interpretation of the local dialect.

"...Neither the governor nor his counselor, in keeping with laws and traditions, was a native of Pentidattilo or belonged to village families." pg. 47

   This governorship sheds light on the sophistication of the feudal system. The baron was required by law to appoint a governor to oversee all administrative and judicial matters and could not interfere. This was an attempt at fairness by the neutrality of this intermediary position. Villagers could bring grievances against the governor after his term had expired. Counter to the impression that many have of feudal society and justice there was a true desire for the truth to prevail.The character of witnesses was also weighed as was the potential bias of friends and enemies.

"...Jurists insisted that the questioning not be leading or in any way suggestive and that the witnesses always be asked de causa scientiae, that is how they knew what they knew..." pg.60

   After giving initial testimony the three defendants were tortured, but not in a manner and for reasons  many would assume.The most common form throughout Europe at this time was suspension by rope with the hands tied behind the back.

"...When, as in most cases the defense failed to sway the court, and when the crime was punishable with corporal or harsher penalties (which was the case with a large number of crimes), the judge could order the torture of the defendant in order to obtain a confession. The use of torture was justified not only by the concern with the repression of crime but also the very emphasis on avoiding the arbitrary decision of the judge on creating absolute, objective standards of proof. Torture was carefully regulated in law and doctrine, as to duration and method. Unlike its twentieth-century incarnation, early modern torture was a regular, thoroughly structured part of criminal procedure. Because it could not simply be applied until the defendant confessed, torture could therefore be resisted."

"   The defendant was to be encouraged  and threatened until the very last minute before torture and throughout its duration, in the hope of diminishing the infliction of pain. A medical examination was necessary before torture could be applied, and a physician was to attend the torture, in order to prevent life threatening pain. To avoid excessive pain and vomiting, torture had to be inflicted several hours after the defendant had eaten. Certain categories of defendants, such as the old, the infirm, the very young, or pregnant women were exempted from torture, as were at least for most crimes, privileged groups such as priests, nobles, and -perhaps unsurprisingly- judges and illustrious jurists."

"...Torture could usually be applied up to three times in separate days, though again for grave crimes it was possible to continue further. A confession given under torture had no validity unless ratified the next day by the defendant. Refusal to ratify, however usually resulted in renewed torture. Although we do not know much about the effectiveness of torture, it seems to have been, if not a "relatively mild ordeal," certainly not as effective as legislators might have hoped."  pp 62,63

   Although there was no formal jury, 

"...Public opinion and the reputation of the parties involved in a crime were, as we have seen, essential elements in early modern judicial practice...when it came to the final assessment of what the events had meant the court turned to the men of Pentidattilo, to solid citizens, to give confirmation and legitimation to, and offer a commentary on, what the court had done and learned. In this sense, these seven witnesses played a role not unlike the Greek tragic chorus." pg. 78

   In spite of this or maybe because of it, Professor Astarita claims that family connections often determined the outcome of trials. As the older of the two female defendants Anna de Amico was considered to be more responsible for the crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Domenica Orlando fled the village but was also never convicted. Perhaps the villagers, who knew intimately the character of the two women, determined that the younger Domenica was put up to the crime. Pietro Crea was also released.

   "Village Justice" by Professor Tomasso Astarita is a highly recommended study from primary sources, and should be read by every student of southern Italian history.

Posted by Il Saccente


Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Palio Del Viccio of the town of Palo Del Colle in Puglia

A "Palio" is a competition between different neighborhoods of a town often commemorating an historical event. The competition can involve horse racing, jousting, or archery with the competitors dressed in the attire of the Middle Ages.  The Palio of Siena is the most well known and publicized. These events, however,  take place throughout Italy. The Palio del Viccio of Palo del Colle  developed into the present form  in the fifteenth century.

 In Italian Palio means banner or racing silk. The various neighborhoods of a town each have their own colorful and symbolic banner. In Palo del Colle there are ten rione, or districts represented. Each rione would select a horseman to participate. The participants carry long poles while standing on horseback and attempt to pierce a leather bag of water suspended high in the air over the street. A plump turkey called viccio in the local dialect was the original prize.

 The Palio del Viccio presently takes place twice a year. The winter event takes place on the last day of Carnival, or Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday in February. The summer event is held on the last Sunday in July and is a recent addition to attract tourists.

The original object of the race was a suspended live rooster which the horsemen had to decapitate in order to win. This may seem a bit gory to our modern sensibilities; the reason why a water bag has been substituted. This tradition is very ancient however, and has its roots in our agrarian past. Our forefathers saw everything in the natural world as imbued with a spirit, a living entity which had to be dealt with in order to survive. The rooster represented the spirit of the grain. It was sacrificed in order to insure a plentiful harvest after the planting which took place soon after the season of the present Palio. Over time the sacrifice of the rooster was allied with the importance of horse raising for military defense, and the turkey was substituted for the rooster after it was introduced from the New World.


 Below are some of the banners of the various rione of Palo del Colle.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Meet the people of "Genetic Park"

Genetic research in the Cilento. This article is now ten years old .

Meet the people of Genetic Park

Centuries of isolation have turned the inhabitants of remote Italian villages into a living laboratory
Ten remote villages in southern Italy are this week becoming a "genetic park" where scientists can harvest the racially pure inhabitants' DNA to identify the causes of disease. Isolated for centuries by mountains and forest, the villagers' genetic history stretches back to the Greeks and could hold the key to cures for Alzheimer's disease, asthma, cancer and hypertension.
Villagers crowded into the town hall of Gioi Cilento at the weekend to toast a project they hope will bring visitors and jobs, reversing generations of poverty and emigration. It is one of science's most ambitious attempts to trace the roots of inherited illnesses by spotting genetic differences between a homogeneous people. Similar projects are under way in Sardinia, Iceland, and the Pacific islands.

The villagers agreed to become a living laboratory after it was explained they possessed a unique gene pool that could help create better drugs.
Two hours south of Naples, the area, known as Cilento, had no roads or electricity until recent decades. Woods thick with olives, chestnuts, gorges and caves made it one of the remotest parts of the region of Campania.
Scientists chose Cilento because its inhabitants, who survive by farming and making cheese, have been undisturbed by large-scale immigration for millennia. Some of the villages, which each have between 600 and 2,000 inhabitants, still speak ancient Greek and Albanian. Another 70 Cilento villages are expected to join the project next year. 

The park is protected by Unesco because of archaeological and environmental treasures. 

From today a Naples-based team from the International Institute of Genetics and Biophysics will start combing church records, which date back 500 years, to build families' genealogical profiles. Interviews with local doctors, blood samples and DNA analysis will follow. A genetic data bank should be ready within two years. 

By comparing genetically similar people it is much easier to spot rogue genes linked to disease, says Graziella Persico, who is heading the team.
"These people are so isolated they are perfect for research. We're not looking for any disease in particular, that will emerge in time. Then specialists from America and England can come to study." Months of reassuring villagers led up to today's ceremony, which will include mayors, biologists, anthropologists and sociologists. "We had to explain that we weren't going to use them. We will be here for many, many years."
The decoding of the human genome in June injected urgency into the search for inherited susceptability to disease. 

 The project is funded by Italy's national research council but private backers are being sought, a move that could be controversial if profit-making companies are given exclusive access to data. 

 Iceland agonised over ethical and privacy concerns before handing over the entire population's medical records to the American company DeCode Genetics. 

 Playing a role in 21st-century medicine is gratifying but Cilento's inhabitants hope the researchers' arrival will reverse an atrophy that has left villages half-abandoned, according to Andrea Salati, mayor of Gioi Cilento. "Many of our children have gone, it's mostly old people, which means our communities are dying. This has given us hope for the future. It is a chance to create tourism." 

 Domenico Nicoletti, director of the park, has for years been striving to tap its tourist potential. "It is the only realistic way to revive these villages," he says. When approached by the scientists he persuaded them to include an economic angle to the project. Businesses and employer organisations in Naples were brought on board. Experts in catering and accommodation will tour the villages offering workshops on how to set up bed & breakfasts, an alien concept in rural Campania. 

 Dr Persico acknowledges that studying Cilento's isolation could in fact end it. "If emigrants start returning and tourists hear about what's going on the park is likely to change, we know that. But so be it. That's what the villages want." 

For communities on the coast, which survive on fishing and tourism, Cilento has remained an unexplored wilderness fit only for goats and mountain people. Hundreds of caves form elaborate labyrinths populated only by bats. Travellers who come to view the stalactites without guides routinely become disoriented. In 1889 two brothers went missing. By the time they were found, one was dead and the other insane. 

A genetic park of two villages in Sardinia set up earlier this year is yielding results, says Mario Pirastu, director of the national research council's institute for molecular genetics. "We've set up a model that will be extremely useful to geneticists. We will be publishing results in the next few months." 

Investigations of the DNA of close-knit communities is likely to grow as results become more spectacular. Genes linked to breast cancer have been found among Ashkenazi Jews, hypertension among Turks and diabetes among Finns.

How isolated peoples' DNA can help science unlock secrets of disease
Sicily From the mountain town of Troina, opposite Mount Etna, biologists at the Oasi research centre are on the verge of announcing the isolation of genetic mutations linked to phenylketonuria, a disease that retards babies' development. 

Cambridge archaeologists, investigating tombs and artefacts, have helped the biologists by mapping who settled where and when. The mutation is believed to have been brought by a bronze age settler from Anatolia, Turkey 

Sardinia A gene data bank of 4,000 people from the villages of Perdasdefogu and Talana is being compiled to unlock secrets of cancer, heart disease, asthma and depression. 

The second most homogeneous people in Europe after the Lapps, Sardinians were not diluted with immigrants. People rarely married outside their villages. The population of Talana is descended from eight fathers and eight mothers 

Iceland The rogue gene responsible for Alzheimer's disease has been identified in a gene pool directly linked to the Vikings. The island's ethnic balance - 85% Nordic and 15% Celt - has been largely undisturbed for 1,000 years 

Pingelap Island Almost all of the western Pacific island's 3,000 inhabitants are descended from the 20 survivors of a 1775 storm. DNA from the 5% of islanders who have a rare type of colour blindness has helped scientists locate a gene for colour vision 

Norfolk Island The 1,500 south Pacific descendants of Fletcher Christian and other mutineers on HMS Bounty are being studied to find genetic predispositions to high blood pressure. 

The combination of a British diet, Polynesian genes which are susceptible to heart disease, and isolation are expected to yield insights into hypertension

Violence and Great Estates in the South of Italy, Apulia 1900-1922 Frank Snowden

       Two generations ago my maternal grandparents emigrated from the comune of Palo del Colle, located near the city of Bari. Unfortunately, they passed away before I could learn firsthand about their life in Puglia. This book gives the most detailed description of conditions there that I have found so far.
   According to the book , Puglia has always been somewhat of a backwater area even for the South. The interior of the province is  dominated by a vast undulating plain known as the Murge.

The Murge
From the time of Argonese rule this area was kept settlement free in order for it to remain as sheep pasture. The Argonese rulers charged a duty for the right of sheepherders to use it. The Bourbons continued this practice. 

   After the annexation of the Two Sicilies the new "Liberal" government sold off this land. Instead of allowing the contadini to acquire the land, it was sold to the propertied classes. These absentee landlords went into the agricultural business  forming large estates called latifondi.  Prior to this time the contadini were invested in their labors thru tradition and the bonds between the  classes. The new system turned the contadini into agricultural workers. As interchangeable workers they became the one component of the system which could be controlled .The weather and other factors which affect agricultural production are uncontrollable, especially in Puglia, where water was scarce. As day laborers, or giornalisti, they worked for subsistence wages under very harsh conditions in order to provide profits for the owners.

   Mr. Snowden points out that there was an area of Puglia along the Adriatic coast, east of a line drawn from Bitonto to Alberobello, where conditions were better. This area referred to as the marina was intensely cultivated with almonds, grapes, and olives by small peasant landholders known as contadini. This area offered year round work and was more socially and politically stable. The marina did not revolt as the interior area eventually did. The comune of my grandparents was within this area. 
   Puglia had the least number of emigrants of all the Southern provinces. This was because the vast majority of the population were giornalisti  who owned no land. Although the contadini of the marina may have owned only a tiny parcel, it still gave them something to borrow against or sell in order to afford the ticket for emigration. The day laborers were stuck in their predicament. Emigration as a mitigating factor to unrest was not open to them. Living and working together under harsh conditions for tyrannical overseers fostered a sense of solidarity among the giornalisti. This enabled them to form the only mass peasant movement in the South.  The rest of the South was similar to the marina in its economic and social structure and therefore the conditions and opportunity for a mass movement did not come about. 

   Another factor which led to unrest was the disinheritance of the peasantry. Traditionally, and as far back as pre-Roman times, peasants had the right to gather wood, to farm, to fish, and to pasture on the open public lands known as demani.  After annexation by the North the new regime was opposed to and did not recognize these ancient rights of the peasant to make use of collectively held land. Mr.  Snowden:

"   The opportunities for enclosure of the commons were numerous.The legislation of the Liberal  state was unbending in its aversion to any form of agrarian collectivism.... " p.72
   The solidarity of the giornalisti was also not hindered by the power of the Church. The Catholic Church did not have a strong influence or command  much respect here due to the fact that Puglia was not an area where the best the Church had to offer were sent.  After Rome saw that the rise of socialist movements were more of a threat than the Liberal regime it lifted its ban on participation of church members in political life.

"...In Apulia the clergy took advantage of the new dispensation to make common cause with the ruling parties of order, campaigning actively against the early candidates put forward by the [socialist] leagues".... In a demonstration against this opposition by the church a crowd chanted "..Long live Giordano Bruno..." p.85.

   Mr. Snowden says that the movement in Puglia was essentially anarcho-syndicalist, that is it was formed around one type of worker in opposition to the ruling order. The revolt lasted from about 1900 to the beginning of the Fascist era. It took the form of general strikes , political organization, and many times, armed insurrection. The authorities always countered with violence and many killings and assassinations took place . In many places the overseers and landowners had to travel about under armed guard. The movement did achieve minor improvements, which were eventually swept away as the men were drawn away into the First World War. 

   There were attempts made on the national level to quiet the unrest. Giolitti, a prominent politician of this period instituted reforms. 

"....The difficulty with [Giolitti's] liberalization program was that it applied exclusively to the North of Italy .The PSI and the CGL [socialist parties], which entered into a political partnership with Giolitti were almost exclusively northern in their membership .What took place, therefore, was the creation of a privileged labour elite. The cost of the benefits newly extended to northern workers and peasants was borne by the largely unorganized and unrepresented peasants of the rest of the peninsula. In economic terms , public as well as private investment took place almost entirely either in the industrial triangle bounded by Milan ,Genoa, and Turin, or in the reclamation projects of the Po valley. Despite the evident need of the south for investment, government fiscal policy drained the region of capital for the benefit of the wealthier northern provinces .In Nitti's famous phrase, the taxation of the Liberal state was "regionally progressive in reverse" .Capitanata [Puglia], for instance paid more than twice as much in taxes to the state as it received in government expenditure. In the fiscal year1902-03 the province was assessed for 14,000,000 lire, principally through the land tax. In return it received only 6,5000,000 lire in total public spending. Such treatment contrasted sharply with the province of Milan, one of the most prosperous in the country. In the same financial year Milan enjoyed a net excess of state expenditure [180,000,000 lire] over taxation [140,000,000 lire]. The Apulian provinces directly subsidized northern economic development. The benefits of employment, union representation, and high wages did not extend to the whole of Italy." pp.136-7

   Concerning WWI:

"...Nowhere were the results more deeply felt and enduring than in Apulia. As a wholly agricultural region, it bore, to the full, the impact of the holocaust. According to the prefect [of the military command at Bari] Bari province had the highest proportion of front-line troops in Italy [10]. Although the South suffered the highest levels of war casualties, it received the lowest amount of the vast sums spent by the state to finance the war effort.{11]. Here was a military manifestation of the Southern Question in Italian history....." p154

   As stated previously, the hinterland of Apulia is a vast rolling plain called, at the time, the Tavoliere. This area is referred to today as the Murge. At the time of the  annexation of the Two Sicilies this area was unsettled.

    " ... Foggia province in particular came to be known  as the "Italian frontier", the "California of the South" and the Texas of Apulia" as the scramble for land began.[8] A region of shepherds, commented a Bari newspaper, was transformed into a population of farmers.[9]"...By the law of 26 February 1865,the Risorgimento, the Italian bourgeois revolution, abolished the four centuries of regulation and opened the Tavoliere to cultivation and the land to purchase."
The process of deregulation had profound consequences for Apulian history. The Tavoliere provides a perfect illustration of Gramsci's analysis of the Risorgimento as a "passive revolution" imposed "from above" by the agrarian and commercial bourgeoisie of the North and Centre of the peninsula in alliance with landed classes of the South without involving or benefiting the broad mass of the peasant population. Instead of attempting to use the disposal of the tavoliere to create a substantial class of peasant proprietors, Liberal  Italy made its peace with the more backward propertied classes of the South. The Liberal common-land commissioner at Altamura in the 1860's, Vito Orofino, had hoped that the land settlement after unification would establish a democratic social system that would "demonstrate the advantages of the present free institutions to those citizens, now despised and ignorant, who will appreciate the difference between the old regime and the new."[10]. Instead, Liberal Italy followed the course of least resistance by conciliating the powerful and wealthy notables eager to buy." p9

   And finally I would like to quote a passage from the introduction that gives me a different and proud perspective on my Apulian ancestors and fellow Southern Italian countrymen . On the organized Apulian peasant movement:

 "....their resistance was neither an irrational millenarianism nor a blind attempt to preserve antiquated social relationships. They attempted in a highly disciplined manner to experience economic development on their own terms rather than as its passive victims." p.1    
John A Stavola

All quotes from: 

Violence and Great Estates in the South of Italy, Apulia 1900-1922, Frank Snowden,Cambridge University Press, 2004,9171,792189,00.html


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Castel Del Monte

An Enigma of Apulia

    My first impression of Castel Del Monte, the eight-sided citadel  surrounded by eight octagonal towers, was one of familiarity. In some form genetic memory does exist. We are not completely new creations in every generation. Just as instinctive behavior can be observed in the animal kingdom, the human animal, though more than just an animal, is also a product of his ancestry. Having deep genetic roots in Apulia the impression made by Castel Del Monte was experienced on an intuitive level. It was recognized.
    This book by Heinz Goetze suggests an explanation for this phenomenon of recognition, albeit in a cultural sense involving our perception of beauty. But is our perception of beauty innate or is it learned? 

   Along with a very technical analysis of the design geometry, he traces the history and progression of Hohenstaufen architecture of Frederick II, it's firm grounding in the European Cistercian tradition and the influence of Greek geometry via the Islamic contacts of Frederick. The many photos and illustrations avoid showing anything of the modern world, adding to the effect of peering into the past. 

La Spia delle Puglie
There are few historical references to Castel Del Monte and very little is known about the details of its construction. The first mention is a command of Frederick II on January 29, 1240 to a certain R. de Montefusculo to prepare a floor at the former site known at the time as Santa Maria Del Monte. In 1246 a Hohenstaufen statute obligated the residents of Bitonto, Bitetto (a town next to my ancestral town of Palo Del Colle), and Monopoli to carry out repair work on the site.

   The name of the architect is not known but it is thought that Frederick II took an active interest in its design. All of the imperial structures of his reign were built in a short span of time suggesting that one person must have been the driving force behind their conception. Heinz Goetze points out that Frederick II was directly involved with the design of his buildings and cites a text by a person named Ricardo San Germano that shows the “active participation” of the emperor in the design of his bridge citadel at Capua.

  The Castel Del Monte is an iconic image of Apulia. Located on a natural rise in an otherwise flat terrain once surrounded by a dense forest about eight miles from the town of Andria.

From a distance it appears to be a crown
There are no other buildings surrounding it. From this vantage point can be seen the coast line from the Gargano spur to the city of Monopoli. To the local contadini Castel del Monte was known as "La Spia delle Puglie", the "Spyhole of Apulia". Peering up from the inner courtyard one is also reminded of the view from a telescope or observatory.

  How it was used is not known. Many believe it to have served as a hunting lodge because of its isolated location. It is not technically a castle but could be easily defended, having only one entrance. The lack of a chapel points to a secular use. To see it is to be impressed by a symmetrical beauty and an image of crystalline strength.

   Heinz Goetze offers the first systematic analysis using exact dimensional measurements. He traces the influence on the architectural design and the natural progression of its form from preceding works during the reign of Frederick II Hohenstaufen.

   His analysis of the geometric beauty wonders why those who view it are intuitively impressed:

  “We know from various  examples that symmetry is not shaped by man alone, But is also characteristic of nature, both animate and inanimate. In its different forms and variations in nature, as in art, symmetry is a structural element that can be defined  mathematically. The relationship of ordered, structured nature with art is not surprising because art has always been at once the imitation and exaggeration of nature. With the entire spectrum of its forms, symmetry has repeatedly been employed as a means of style in art-- this is particularly evident in architecture. Did the artist then discover the aesthetic quality of symmetry in nature, or is there even a common source of symmetry’s aesthetic quality in nature and art?

   What enables man to intuitively grasp the basic mathematical structure of the world and reconstruct and experience it seems to me aptly expressed in the lines from Plotin, translated by Goethe:

If the eyes were not like the sun
The sun it could not see;
If God’s own power were not within us
How could the divine enrapture us?”  
   "There appears to be a process of recognition, an anagnorisis , corresponding to Plato's anamnesis, the recollection of the world of ideas, to which he also assigns mathematics. Why else is an exactly defined proportion such as the golden section or the five platonic bodies....spontaneously perceived as beautiful-even by people who are unaware of the underlying mathematical principles? Castel del Monte thus appears to us as a living witness to the mathematical nature of aesthetics. pp204,205
A contadino's rendition
Castel Del Monte is symmetrical in a way that shows  the designer had at least an “intuitive grasp” of the concept of the fractal. A fractal is a part of a whole which when  broken off is still a copy of the whole. Discovered in the 1970’s by a man named Mandelbrot it has implications in many fields of knowledge.

   Mr Goetze reports that a formula was determined for the basic floor plan which when extrapolated by a computer program reproduced the building in it’s three dimensional form. When the pattern was extended to infinity it was shown to replicate a fractal.

The building plan is based on the octagon, an eight sided figure formed by a square with another square superimposed at a 45 degree angle to it. The square with it’s four equal sides is connected in esoteric literature with the earth and the points of the compass. The octagon is a transitional figure between the square and the circle. The circle in esoteric symbolism represents heaven and immortality. Visualize the night sky as you view it from a wide flat area. Turning 360 degrees you experience a circle.

   “The square interested mathematicians and philosophers because of the impossibility, discovered in the period of Greek pre-classicism, of finding a rational number proportion between the length of the diagonal and the length of the side of a square…With the Neoplatonists and Neopythagoreans, who had a strong influence on Islam, irrational quantities acquired a symbolic meaning” pg.116

The octagon is a universal esoteric symbol also found in China, Japan, as well as in Islamic art. In Christian symbolism the octagon is used in baptismal fountains as a symbol of the hope of salvation.

Painting from 1890 before restoration work
  A number of possible sources can be found  for Frederick II, and the designer of Castel Del Monte’s use of the octagonal form. The Pfalzkapelle in Aachen, where he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, is octagonal shaped as is the Carolingian crown. Barbarossa, his grandfather, donated the octagonal chandelier which is contained here.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as well as the Dome of the Rock where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, are laid out in the form of the octagon. During the crusade of 1228/1229 Frederick visited the Dome of the Rock and had the construction plan explained to him.

   As the only Holy Roman Emperor to have the crown of Jerusalem placed on his head, he saw himself and his reign to be in a direct line from King David of Israel.There were many reasons for Frederick II to be engrossed by the significance of the octagon.

   These influences aside, Mr. Goetze spends much time tracing the octagonal design in Islamic art and architecture and comes to the conclusion that Islamic designers played a major role.

It is true that Frederick II, although of German and Norman descent, grew up as an orphan in Palermo. Islamic rule had ended by the time of his youth but Islamic influence was still to be found by the boy who was nevertheless culturally a Sicilian. One of his tutors was said to have been an Islamic judge to the remnant Muslim population. Frederick was known for his understanding of Arabic and Arab culture.

   The southern Italy and Sicily of this era was on the borderland of Islamic expansion so Frederick’s use of Islamic designers is conceivable. Architectural design books from the Muslim world of this time contain many octagonal forms. Islamic use of the octagon as a ground up motif is however:

 “…limited in the Islamic world primarily to mausoleum. Palaces and mosques generally have square plans…” p125

   “Thus we come across a peculiarity of Arabic architecture and the mentality on which it is based; It is not spatially or plastically, but rather two-dimensionally oriented, as evidenced in such varied ways by the splendid and ingenious Islamic ornamental art.” p126

   The edifice of Castel Del Monte is designed to be viewed and comprehended three dimensionally as was Greek sculpture.

   “The road that leads up to Castel Del Monte describes a circle around the building, thus cultivating the impression of three dimensionality…” p111
 Mr. Goetze carries the Greek influence further:

   “…With this sense of three dimensionality, Hohenstaufen architecture is closest to the art and architecture of the Greeks. This makes particularly understandable the fondness of Frederick II for classical sculpture with which he surrounded himself and which he spared no effort to display in his castles. He recommended that the school of sculpture he had founded orient itself according to classical models…” p112

   Castle Del Monte is unique to all European buildings of the time in it’s dimensional accuracy. It measures 167 feet at the widest point, is 95 feet high, and the inner courtyard is 57 feet in diameter. Nowhere in the elements of the structure, which can be seen, is a measurement off by more than 2cm or about half an inch!

   " These are dimensional accuracies that seem unbelievable for a medieval European building. The exactness of the measurements is prerequisite to the unrestrained effect of the building, which presents itself symmetrically on all sides...This precision-which has hardly been affected at all, even by the restoration work carried out on the citadel during past decades- certainly could not have been achieved without the use of precise technical methods of measurement..." pp 191,192
The floor plan
The ground plan alignment is also significant. The north/south axis meets the spiral of the cathedral at Andria, an  important town to him because it remained loyal . Both of his wives were also buried there.The main and only entrance way faces east, above which a stone head brought from an ancient ruin near Andria bears an inscription in Greek:

"...on the calends of May at sunrise I shall  have a head of gold."

"...On the first day of may, the rays of the sun gilded this Imperial diadem, in the same way that the heads of Roman emperors had been wreathed in sun rays on their gold coins."  "Old Puglia", p58,59

   The roof is designed to funnel all available rainwater, a necessity in Apulia which has low rainfall, a porous surface topography, and thus very little surface water. The castle contained indoor running water and at one time an octagon fountain at the inner courtyard, made from a single piece of marble.The towers on each floor are vaulted in the Gothic style. 
The third tower contains an artificial eyrie . After more than 750 years it is reported that birds of prey still nest here. Frederick II as a man with a love of falconry would be pleased to see this. De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus, “The Art of Hunting with Birds “ is his famous treatise written towards the end of his life.

Federico Secundo
    Northern Apulia was Fredericks self chosen home. Nicknamed the "Puer Apuliae" (the boy from Apulia) he spent much time between Foggia and his  favorite hunting "parks" in the mountains nearby. What better location to build an outward expression of his imperial crown,the symbol of his ranking in the divine hierarchy, in the forests that he loved ,visible from the coastline and for miles around.
John A Stavola

Unless otherwise noted all quotes are from:
Heinz Goetze, Castel Del Monte: Geometric Marvel of the Middle Ages; Prestel-Verlag, Munich, New York, 1998

 Additional source:
Desmond Seward and Susan Mountgarret: Old Puglia: A Portrait of South Eastern Italy; House Publishing, London 2009