The legend of St. Vito

san-vito-patronoThe Feast of St. Vito, the patron saint of Forio as a beautiful pearl in a month, June, speaking of sun, heat and intense colors given to us by nature.
Bishop Giuseppe Regine is pastor of St. Vito for 45 years (the seal signed by Bishop Dino Tommassini is dated October 10, 1969 while the taking of canonical possession took place on October 26th of the same year), and there he spend all day, intent on praying, reading Catholic newspapers, listening to his people, in the administration of the Sacrament of Confession, caring the temple dedicated to the Patron Saint.

If one goes to San Vito knows to find always, in every hour of the day a point of reference for their journey; but Msgr. Regine is also a great source of wisdom: with him on a sunny May morning we retrace a little history of the Church of St. Vito and the devotion to the young Saint on the island of Ischia and in Forio.
The popular legend joins the devotion to the patron with the cultivation of the vine and argues that
toward the half of the nineteenth century, while raged the blight on the island and Forians suffered the shortage of harvest, a Sicilian ship, laden with sulfur landed in Forio. The Sicilians claimed to have been sent in Forio, by a child who had pledged a ring and that the popular imagination identified with St. Vito.
The fact is that the veneration of the young Vito in Forio has ancient roots, which date back to the Middle Ages and even then most likely there was a temple dedicated to him in the town of Citara, destroyed between 897 and 902 from the incursions of the Saracens who plundered everything; so it was that for the first time the church dedicated to St. Vito was built where today stands the majestic Basilica, between 827 and the 902.
In fact in Forio was very strong also the cult of Saint Catherine from Alexandria, who also find represented only 4 times in the Basilica of St. Vito, but the title of Patron Saint of Forio has always been up to the young martyr; already in a document of 700 where the Congregation of Rites draws the Mass to the Saint, speaks of him as the patron of Forio.
Returning to the present Basilica of St. Vito in Forio, it is already defined in the oldest written document Parish Church of Ischia, dating back to June 12, 1306, and preserved in the Vatican: it is established that, having been built according to the Church, the Holy See upheld the right of election by the people of the parish priest of Forio; that right arose because the parish of St. Vito initially depended on the islano Cathedral Chapter and no priest would come regularly from Ischia to Forio, so Forians claimed the right (still current but in the form of the presentation of a list of three names to the Bishop ) to elect a parish priest of the place that could assist them permanently.
The Parish Church of St. Vito then was elevated to the rank of Basilica on July 18, 1988 by the Bishop of that time Antonio Pagano.
Before getting back into the relationship between San Vito and Forio, it is necessary to add that the devotion to this saint has spread a bit all over Europe and in Italy some 15 towns bear his name and 74 are honored to have him as a patron; on our Island in the town of Ischia was also the title of this parish of St. Vito, first in 1300 in a church located in Via Vecchia Campagnao which was subsequently destroyed, then in the present Church of the Holy Spirit in Ischia Ponte.
Returning to Forio we can see that already in 1600, was carried in procession the wood statue of St. Vito, now on the left side of the main altar in the basilica, the Forians however, once completed the construction of the Basilica wanted to make greater honor to the Saint commissioning the realization of a silver statue dated 1787 ; the historic D’Ascia gives us many and detailed news on the statue: “The design was by the famous sculptor Giuseppe Sammartino who composed the model. The goldsmiths who performed the work were brothers Giuseppe and  Gennaro. This statue arrived in Forio on March 21, 1787. The work was modeled and executed in a year, because the contract between the goldsmiths and artisans and the Mayor of Forio was signed on April 18, 1786 by Mr. Carlo Pollicino from Naples. The intrinsic cost of that statue was of 2848:74 ducats. “The work appears to be far from the ways of Sammartino, therefore, is to assume that it was modeled on an existing simulacrum of the end of 16th century”.
This statue, tells Msgr. Regine, is located in the sacristy, in a niche closed by a wooden door with two doors, and is only open during the festival in June and January 6 at the end of the Holy Forty hours, because at that time was not posed any glass and such placement allows a better preservation of silver, also in the Basilica of St. Vito’s image is present not only in the wooden statue, also in the beautiful altar cloth (the largest island in size) dated 1742 and built by Alfonso Di Spigna, which depicts the patron saint with St. Catherine of Alexandria at the foot of the Holy Trinity.
The Feast of the Saint until 1960s was held in the month of August, when the peasants were free from toil in the fields, was the then parish priest, Fr Vincenzo Avallone, to bring it back to its day of the liturgical Solemnity of the Saint, on June 15. Also this year will revolve around this date the principal moments of the festival, with the procession by land and one by sea on Sunday 15 and Monday 16, in a succession of faith, tradition, music and colors, to remember the heavenly birthday of martyr Vito and once again to ask his protection and his blessing on all Forio.

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  • Surface: 46 Kmq
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