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Monastery – Third episode

"Ombre dal passato", Luca Giordano

Vincitore del concorso fotografico Oltre lo sguardo”. Monasterium album maggio 2015

September 25 / 19.. Since I decided to learn more about the “old monastery”, it seems logical to take this diary for the reporting my findings. I’m sure you can find many local superstitions, the result of ignorance and fantasy, who have condemned this place to become a place “cursed.” Take care of them, it will serve as a pastime during my studies of mechanical engineering.

September 26/ 19.. After the classes in the afternoon, I went to the monastery to make an inspection. Turning everything around the structure, to look for the entrance, I discovered that it is enclosed on three sides by high fence, which continues monotonous, with no particular significant for several hundred meters, while the fourth, the side facing eastward , it is hidden by a series of small houses, built side by side, in a disorderly, almost chaotic. They form a small neighborhood, inhabited by non-Italian, probably poor. One lane creeps inside the maze, full of waste and all kinds of dirt. At the level of the pavement, the houses show all doors rickety, dirty windows from which hang clothes faded and decrepit facades. I do not understand why the town has not yet done so to make them vacate as definitely unsafe.

A trio of old, by strange look and cataracts on the eye, seemed to do the mail at the beginning of the path, identified by a dirty plate as “Via dei Norcini”.

Going inside, I was overwhelmed by both the stench of what seemed to be boiled broccoli, and has a sweeter smell, but more meaningful, similar to the one issued from the carcass of an animal. After turning a few times following the tortuous path, I found myself immersed in a semi-darkness. The houses were so close to each other, that their roofs almost touching. A baby crying somewhere, while a front door sat a young girl. Filthy beyond all limits, it was practically naked, covered only by a shirt that came to her knees. Seeing got up and said something in a language completely unknown to me. His actions, however, were quite suggestive and I was shocked when I realized that it was a prostitute. How is it possible, that evolved in an era such as ours, the authorities allow such a monstrosity, in the heart of the city?

Horrified, I hurried to continue, leading to a kind of stone arch that clashed dramatically with the surrounding environment, as it seemed more appropriate to the input of a few noble villa that a frame at that wretched ghetto. Beyond it the road opened into a tiny square, dominated by a fountain turned into a garbage receptacle.

Three sides of the plaza were closed by high walls without windows, while the fourth showed the facade of a church. I know of architectural styles, but I think it should be old at least 400 or 500 years, if not more. He reminded me, in part, the church joined the elementary school I attended as a child and that I knew belonged to the Franciscans. The surface is made of ocher-colored brick, with no decorations or any decoration, except for a single rosette, miraculously intact, which is stuck under the door. This crown a short staircase, which became the shelter of a large group of stray dogs. There was nothing, neither a name nor a clue that would allow to understand if, at least the religious building, was still in operation. Disappointed I returned quickly on my feet.

September 27/ 19.. Nothing. I consulted dozens of maps of the city, going back since the beginning of the century, but none shows the shape of the inside of the monastery

September 29/ 19.. The university library has no volume to speak of the church or the monastery in general. I am not even able to know which saint are dedicated. It is as if every news regarding such structures had been carefully removed

October 15/ 19.. I can not believe it. I finally found the first answers, but should proceed in order. After tailings research efforts within the university library I went to the public. I consulted dozens, perhaps hundreds of volumes on the history of the city. Nothing. None of them spoke or only hinted at the presence of the monastery, which is also a structure of considerable size. I noticed, though, one thing. All books were after 1900. Convinced of having in hand a faint clue, or at least a way, I asked to inspect the books of local history prior to the twentieth century. They told me I had to come back two days later, so that they could recover from the archives.

I did as requested and on the morning of 3 October, I was greeted by a stack of books, some in poor condition. It was forced to consult them on the spot, without taking them home, since many of them had a certain value even money. I decided to skip a few lessons and prepared in searches. It took two days, but finally found a first mention of the monastery. In a manuscript of 1789, that could read with some effort, was quoted by the church of San Celestino Montevoltato, adjacent to a former monastery. The unknown editor of the report narrated, so unclear, of terrible events that occurred in places adjacent to the church in the years between 1750 and 1765. As a result of them, and abandonment of the church by the Curia, people began to shy away from the area, once home to many artisan shops, while the abandoned houses were occupied as stragglers and robbers. The situation degenerated to the point that, just in 1789, a group of gendarmes brought about a sort of clearing. What it was found inside one of the houses caused horrors without end, so as to convince the prefect to give the flame structure and to condemn to death the occupants.

Taken with excitement I continued in the research, the more I pushed back in time, more details surfaced: the church had never had it easy. Inside it was consumed a ferocious crime in 1721, when a local woman tore the priest for no apparent reason, forcing the bishop to re-consecrate the building; ten years ago, between 1710 and 1711, they disappeared children who were working as laborers in one of the adjoining streets. After extensive research, it was blamed a tanner, who lynched to death by the crowd, however, proved innocent. Later, and without any apparent connection, the monastery was surrounded by order of the public authority, with the gate still exists, but during the work died horribly seven workers.

The most interesting part, however, taht I found was in a reprint, dating back to 1820, the private diary of one of a messenger, a native of Zaragoza, in the mission, around 1620, on Italian soil to try to squeeze some trade agreements. He was hosted at the home of a wealthy merchant of the place, such Bartolucci and was witness to a heinous act took place at the monastery. On the morning of Dec. 23, there was play endlessly the small bell, which was already on top of the turret. Many residents rushed thinking that an accident had taken place or that he had started a fire, but no one expected to be before such a sight: the prior of the convent had hanged himself with the cord of the bell itself and his body swung lifeless at several palms from the ground, while, inside, all twenty-six monks had been killed in an inhumane manner. It was this massacre the cause of the initial abandonment of the structure. I did not get anything from those tomes, but now I have much to be investigated.

to be continued…

G.G.Vinciguerra, translated by Francesco Costrini (Copyright Monasterium Album)

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Francesco Costrini

Pilot, globetrotter, photographer, graphic, in search of a music or a piano to play

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