Restituta, come from the sea

santa-restitutaBack in May and with it come back on our beautiful island intense scents and magical evenings to live together. Back above all the magic and charm of the Feast of Santa Restituta, Patroness of the Diocese of Lacco Ameno of Ischia and it will be like every year where many people will crowd the town of Lacco in these days in honor of the Saint by every part of the island.

But who was first Santa Restituta?
Santa Restituta, African virgin and martyr, according to some sources, came originally from Carthage, according to other from Tenizia, that the current Bizerte in Tunisia: this is on the coast overlooking the strait of Sicily, and was already in the third century illustrious bishop’s seat at Carthage.
Restituta, attended the school of St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and took part in the group of Abitinesi martyrs, described in the “Passio SS. Dativi, Saturnini et aliorum”, written by Pio Franchi Dei Cavalieri.
During the tenth anti-Christian persecution, ordered by the Emperor Diocletian in 304, a large number of Christians, continued to gather in the city of Abitina in the house of Ottavio Felice, to celebrate the Eucharistic rite, called “dominicum”, under the guidance of Priest Saturnino.
Fifty of them were surprised by the Roman soldiers: were arrested, interrogated and then dragged in chains to Carthage. On February 12, in 304 they underwent the ritual questioning in the presence of the proconsul Anulinus and reconfirmed their faith despite the torture, were sentenced to death: among them was Restituta.
Insufficient historical data on the place and time on her martyrdom. Tardive medieval “Passiones” completed the limited historical data cited: one that concerns us more closely and that was handed down to the present day, is that of hagiographer Pietro Suddiacono, dating back to the tenth century, which describes the trial, conviction and the martyrdom of the saint who, exhausted by torture, was placed on a boat load of oakum soaked of resin and pitch; when this was taken off by the executioners and set on fire, the Saint remained unharmed, while the fire wiped out the other boat with its occupants. Restituta thanked God and prayed that an angel accompany her during the crossing: answered, gratefully asked to enter the eternal peace and peacefully breathed her last expire. A thousand year old tradition still tells a boat led by the Angel and dragged by the wind of Africa arrived to the island of Aenaria, now Ischia, located in front of the Gulf of Naples, touching land in the locality called “ad Ripas”, today San Montano. In that place lived a Christian matron named Lucina: warned in a dream by the angel, went to the beach, where she found the boat aground and in it the body intact and shining of Restituta. Gathered the population, was given the Martyr a solemn burial at the place called Eraclius, at the foot of Monte Vico in Lacco Ameno, which contains the ruins of an early Christian basilica, and where there is now a shrine dedicated to the Saint. The legendary journey has inspired the French poet A. de Lamartine, who wrote in 1842 “Le lis du golfe de Santa Restituta dans l’ìle d’Ischia”.
Even today we speak about “Sirocco of Santa Restituta” that always (maybe almost miraculously) blows strong on the island in the days dedicated to the Saint whose liturgical feast falls on May 17.
Another peculiarity linked to the cult of the patron saint is the presence of “Lilies of Santa Restituta”.
Why this?
 Tradition and legend tell us that when the boat with the body of Santa Restituta landed at the beach of San Montano, it miraculously filled with numerous white lilies. In fact in the past the Pancratium maritimum L. (its exact name), belonging to the family of Amaryllidacee, was without doubt one of the most beautiful plants present of sandy coasts, with its large white flowers that bloomed in the summer months. Today, this species is in sharp decline, both because of the significant human presence and the over-exploitation of coastal areas.    
However, on the evening of May 16, the sand of the bay of San Montano, where is the representation of the Passion of Santa Restituta, is adorned with many lilies in memory of this ancient legend.
The most touching moment of the entire festival is in fact just what the evening of May 16, organized by the “Le Ripe” with the participation of all the people of Lacco: the reenactment of passion and death of the Saint with the “fire boat“ and its arrival at the Bay of San Montano.    
Tuta Irace, former Mayor of Lacco Ameno, always involved in this event and in the service of the Sanctuary of Santa Restituta reminds us that “The representation of the Passion of Santa Restituta has been held since 1968 in Lacco Ameno and comes from an intuition of the rector of the Shrine, Can. Don Pietro Monti. Before then, in the evening of May 16 was held only a procession of the Ss.mo Sacramento but then especially with the arrival of a greater number of tourists it was initially decided to hold just a representation of the landing of the Saint in S.Montano and then following the Passion and her companions, martyrs of Abitene”.
Every three years the script of this sacred representation is revisited and updated; since 1980s onwards to deal with commitment and painstaking care was prof. Giovanni Castagna, who died recently: “Professor Castagna before his death, put his hand to a new version of the Passion of S.Restituta - continues Tuta Irace - because this year we would have to stage another retelling, this work will be completed by me but we will present in 2015; this year, to make a fitting tribute will represent the last Passion he realized treferring to the Passion of the abitinesi martyrs with even greater fidelity and in which he highlights the value of the Eucharistic sacrifice, for which Santa Restituta and her companions gave their lives”.
Lacco Ameno also thanks to Santa Restituta can be considered the “cradle of Christianity” on our island: “Santa Restituta was buried in a sanctuary dedicated to Hercules who became a Christian Basilica; the discovery of a baptistery in which administered the Sacrament of Baptism by immersion confirms the vitality of that first Christian community also around the body of the martyrs and in our case of Santa Restituta. At the beginning of the twenty centuty because of invasions and raids of the Arabs who plundered all, in particular, the relics of the saints, the bones of Santa Restituta were moved to Naples where they are still, in the Cathedral of St. Gennaro”.
The love and devotion to this saint, the patron saint of the whole island of Ischia, are lost in the mists of time; over the years, in the Sanctuary of Santa Restituta have been left several witnesses through the votive offerings from the faithful. Many are repeated patterns in form, but some made with very simple material such as wheat straw, representing the works unique and unrepeatable.
The feast of Santa Restituta this year will also see its culmination with the Holy Mass presided by Bishop Lagnese at 10.30 on May 17 during which the Municipality of Forio provide the oil that feeds the votive lamp to the Saint and with processions by sea (Saturday 17) and by land (Sunday 18), combined with live music and fireworks, which will be the backdrop to these moments expected an entire year by all the islanders!

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  • Surface: 46 Kmq
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