Santa Restituta: inside Madonna of the Shells you can hear the sound of love

santa restitutaVinicio Capossela, multi-instrumentalist and Italian writer, in his album «Marinai, Profeti e Balene» with the song «The Madonna of the Shells», («La Madonna delle Conchiglie») was inspired by the history of the patron saint of the island of Ischia. In particular, the patron of Lacco Ameno that on the other hand hosts a basilica dedicated to the «black» Virgin and a Museum discovered in 1951, which contains the remains of an early Christian crypt and an ancient cemetery. Capossela tells about the martyr, protector of sailors: Santa Restituta. The song, recorded in 2011 on the green island, suggested by the original creativity of the singer intent on chasing eyes thrown into space from the Aragonese Castle of Ischia Ponte in search of the boundaries of the horizon, tells about a “statue returned by sea with skin painted with another color”.

«The Madonna of the Shells / came from the sea / Without papers, without the escort / without permission, without a passport», it is perhaps the most striking phrase from the text and recalls the sources that tell about the presence of currents in the Mediterranean Sea that is - as British Norman Douglas writes - «are constantly in the direction of Campania». «How in mythological times the remains of the Siren Partenope, floating on the waters, proceeded to Naples» or «in the heroic age, Palinuro, helmsman of Aeneas, whose body reached the headland that bears his name», even the body of Santa Virgin Restituta sailed in the Gulf of Naples. Everything is connected with the travel of the current migrants who flee from hunger, famine and wars in search of a new life. The sources, ultimately, celebrate the existence of a corridor that can restore, and what happens for thousands of years, the connection between the coasts of Africa to those of the Italian peninsula. Where the search for salvation is only one of the tones that brings the peoples of communion of the “White Middle Sea” - as they call the Arab-cradle of some of the oldest civilizations on the planet. The “journey” of Santa Restituta is a reminder of the religious persecution that, now as then, are fixed in the memory of a mind that is not so far from past dashed by signs of arrogant supremacy of men over other men under the guise of religion.
Historical records testify that the Saint came from the coast of Tunisia. According to others came from Carthage, that already in the third century was a center of bishops, while others believed she was native of Tenizia, the current Bizerte. She attended the School of St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage. She took part of the group of martyrs Abitinesi. She was found in the city of Abitina, home of Ottavio Felice during the celebration of the Eucharistic “dominicum” rite and was conducted in Carthage in chains along with fifty other prisoners. It was the 304, period of the tenth persecution ordered by the Emperor Diocletian and the Roman soldiers were prisoners among Christians who came from Carthage and Bizerte. They were sentenced to martyrdom, after interrogation in which they repeated their faith. Among them Santa Restituta whose cult extends the “Mare Nostrum” in an inescapable link between East and West. Although there was no reliable sources on the place and time of her martyrdom, from Naples to Palermo, Cagliari and Oristano until arriving in Corsica, places of worship seem to weave a plot that ties identities and traditions of regions seemingly different. The most exciting festival that celebrates the martyr has place in Lacco Ameno with eleven days of festivities, from May 8 to 18.
Folklore, the representation of the landing of Restituta, museum visits, renew the undeniable relationship to the past and set in the procession on May 17 the main moment where a millenary memory combines the charm of unreal a moving story to the religious one. The story tells about the Saint bulging from torture, dying, placed on a boat, load of tow, resin and pitch. Dragged off, the boat was set on fire. In addition, this is where the miracle is revealed through Divine Providence, of that “Fate” which moves the nature of things. Set on fire, the boat with the exhausted body of Restituta remains unharmed. The fire, however, destroyed the other vessel carrying her executioners. After the invocation of Restituta, an Angel took her, during the journey, on the coasts of Campania. Satisfied, she asked the Lord to enter the eternal peace and it was so. A matron named Lucina, warned by a dream by the Angel who escorted the body, gathered the population. They took into custody the lifeless remains to give burial at Eraclius, today Lacco Ameno, on the slopes of Mount Vico. The same tradition says that the boat with the blessed human cargo landed on the island of Aenaria, the island of Ischia, near the area of “Ad Ripas”, today’s San Montano Bay. Yet when the boat landed, blossomed spontaneously a bed of white lilies in order to welcome the remains. All this is represented in the scenic reconstruction on May 16 in the Bay of San Montano in a vibrant joining of the senses excited by the colors of dusk and the sea breeze. A trip down, that one of Restituta, symbolizing man’s one. Here the religiosity mixed with legend filters and love is essential and immortal. It is the energy that enlivens even death without heat and that would have the power to transform into something different as well our modernity often meaningless.


Graziano Petrucci

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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
  • Inhabitants: 58.029


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