Monday, May 12, 2008

Our Pilgrimage to Sant' Alfio

We hit the road at 5pm and began hiking the steep streets past Presa to Vena.

Through the vineyard, you can see our town and the church standing tall in the center.

With all the twist and turns of the street, there were so many beautiful views.

In the distance there is the mountain Monte Venere, where lies Venus sleeping on her back. The top of the mountain is her head, then her nose and chin, chest, knees, where sits the town of Castelmola, and finally the town of Taormina, at her feet.

Our hike continued up streets that have not been traveled in a long time...

Our town in the distance with a faint image of Calabria across the Sea.

Mount Etna and the Ginestra.

Yes, it was a hike! Many streets cars can not travel on...

We're getting there... Soon after 8:30pm the sun set and there was no more light. But, in the air was a pounding sound of fireworks exploding. We still had many kilometers ahead of us...

The crowd of people gathered outside the church to welcome in all the people who were arriving on foot for Saint Alfio.

The devotion candle that was carried by many, barefoot and crying Viva S'Alfio!

Here on YouTube you can see this Candelora on display. The wood carvings represent the story of the three brothers.

All the devotion candles were gathered and offered to Saint Alfio...

The story of the Three Saints and how they came to be martyred has been handed down for centuries in the small villages of eastern Sicily. It is part of the oral tradition of that area, but in modern times the story has been well researched and documented.

During the time of the Roman Empire, a noble couple, Vitale and Benedicta, had converted to Christianity. Their three sons, Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino were privately educated in the Christian faith by their parents and by Onesimus, a Greek scholar. In the year 250 AD, the Emperor issued an edict demanding that all Christians renounce their faith and demonstrate allegiance to the State by worshipping him and the Roman gods. Failure to obey the edict was considered treason, and the penalty was death. Benedicta refused to obey the edict and she was martyred. Vitale escaped to a monastic community, leaving his sons in the care of their tutor. At the time, Alfio was twenty-one, Filadelfo was twenty and Cirino was nineteen years old.Because the brothers were so young and came from a highly regarded noble family, the Roman authorities hoped to convince them or force them into a public renunciation of their Christian faith so that others would follow.

However, a succession of officials failed to get the boys to yield. Finally, they were sent to Sicily where a young Roman patriot named Tertullo had already gained fame for ruthless interrogation and torture of Christians.The brothers landed in Messina on August 25, 252 AD. They were marched from there to Taormina with a heavy beam strapped to their shoulders. The brothers arrived in the village which is now known as Trecastagni on September 1, where they rested for the night. While many assume that the name of this village can be literally translated as "Three Chestnuts", the name was actually derived from the Latin, Tres-Casti-Agni or "Three Chaste Lambs", referring to the Three Saints. The brothers were then marched south to Catania and on the 3rd of September they entered Lentini.

Wherever Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino went, miracles were attributed to them. Their suffering and their refusal to give in to the power of the Roman authorities inspired more people to convert to Christianity. Tertullo tried several means of torture, all to no avail. Furious, he ordered the final instruments of death for the brothers: a pair of tongs to tear out the tongue of Alfio, a gridiron set over coals for Filadelfo, and a cauldron filled with hot oil for young Cirino. On May 10, 253 the three young men refused for the last time to renounce their faith. Before his death, Alfio spoke these words to Tertullo: "You may remove my tongue so I cannot speak, but I will never cease to give thanks and praise to God in my heart, for the eternal truth for which I die." Led by the eldest, each brother went to his death, a martyrdom which earned them the everlasting love and respect of all who had witnessed their bravery and devotion. Their tombs remain in Lentini to this day, beneath the Church of Sant'Alfio.

Seventeen centuries later, in the towns of Lentini and Trecastagni, there are still feasts held on May 10 each year in honor of St. Alfio and his brothers. Faith in the intercession of the Saints is strong, and miracles continue to be attributed to them. Wherever the faithful gather the people remember and they shout: Viva Sant'Alfio!
-an extract of the book "WITH TRUE FAITH"


Megan in Liguria said...

Lovely post and photos. You truly capture the essence of "Sicilian Simplicity". Just love it! :)

chiara76 said...

I agree, the post is very interesting and also photos are great. I like them, especially those ones from the road and area around it...Such a views, gosh!

Jilli said...

Thanks Ladies!

Maryellen Pienta said...

Very nicely done! I had the chance to see the Sicilian cart parade but did not know the whole story about the saints. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hey we did this walk on Easter Sunday in '88, my grandfather's home was Presa. But until today I didn't know that my dad was named after St. Alfio.


Fred Turrisi