Old Calabria By Norman Douglas














































































 - OLD CALABRIA

BY NORMAN DOUGLAS



CONTENTS

I. SARACEN LUCERA
II. MANFRED'S TOWN
III. THE ANGEL OF MANFREDONIA
IV. CAVE-WORSHIP - Page 1
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OLD CALABRIA

BY NORMAN DOUGLAS

CONTENTS

I. SARACEN LUCERA II. MANFRED'S TOWN III. THE ANGEL OF MANFREDONIA IV. CAVE-WORSHIP V. LAND OF HORACE VI. AT VENOSA VII. THE BANDUSIAN FOUNT VIII. TILLERS OF THE SOIL IX. MOVING SOUTHWARDS X. THE FLYING MONK XI. BY THE INLAND SEA XII. MOLLE TARENTUM XIII. INTO THE JUNGLE XIV. DRAGONS XV. BYZANTINISM XVI. REPOSING AT CASTROVILLARI XVII. OLD MORANO XVIII. AFRICAN INTRUDERS XIX. UPLANDS OF POLLINO XX. A MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL XXI. MILTON IN CALABRIA XXII. THE "GREEK" SILA XXIII. ALBANIANS AND THEIR COLLEGE XXIV. AN ALBANIAN SEER XXV. SCRAMBLING TO LONGOBUCCO XXVI. AMONG THE BRUTTIANS XXVII. CALABRIAN BRIGANDAGE XXVIII. THE GREATER SILA XXIX. CHAOS XXX. THE SKIRTS OF MONTALTO XXXI. SOUTHERN SAINTLINESS XXXII. ASPROMONTE, THE CLOUD-GATHERER XXXIII. MUSOLINO AND THE LAW XXXIV. MALARIA XXXV. CAULONIA TO SERRA XXXVI. MEMORIES OF GISSING XXXVII. COTRONE XXXVIII. THE SAGE OF CROTON XXXIX. MIDDAY AT PETELIA XL. THE COLUMN INDEX.

OLD CALABRIA

I

SARACEN LUCERA

I find it hard to sum up in one word the character of Lucera - the effect it produces on the mind; one sees so many towns that the freshness of their images becomes blurred. The houses are low but not undignified; the streets regular and clean; there is electric light and somewhat indifferent accommodation for travellers; an infinity of barbers and chemists. Nothing remarkable in all this. Yet the character is there, if one could but seize upon it, since every place has its genius. Perhaps it lies in a certain feeling of aloofness that never leaves one here. We are on a hill - a mere wave of ground; a kind of spur, rather, rising up from, the south - quite an absurd little hill, but sufficiently high to dominate the wide Apulian plain. And the nakedness of the land stimulates this aerial sense. There are some trees in the "Belvedere" or public garden that lies on the highest part of the spur and affords a fine view north and eastwards. But the greater part were only planted a few years ago, and those stretches of brown earth, those half-finished walks and straggling pigmy shrubs, give the place a crude and embryonic appearance. One thinks that the designers might have done more in the way of variety; there are no conifers excepting a few cryptomerias and yews which will all be dead in a couple of years, and as for those yuccas, beloved of Italian municipalities, they will have grown more dyspeptic-looking than ever. None the less, the garden will be a pleasant spot when the ilex shall have grown higher; even now it is the favourite evening walk of the citizens. Altogether, these public parks, which are now being planted all over south Italy, testify to renascent taste; they and the burial-places are often the only spots where the deafened and light-bedazzled stranger may find a little green content; the content, respectively, of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso. So the cemetery of Lucera, with its ordered walks drowned in the shade of cypress - roses and gleaming marble monuments in between - is a charming retreat, not only for the dead.

The Belvedere, however, is not my promenade. My promenade lies yonder, on the other side of the valley, where the grave old Suabian castle sits on its emerald slope. It does not frown; it reposes firmly, with an air of tranquil and assured domination; "it has found its place," as an Italian observed to me. Long before Frederick Barbarossa made it the centre of his southern dominions, long before the Romans had their fortress on the site, this eminence must have been regarded as the key of Apulia. All round the outside of those turreted walls (they are nearly a mile in circumference; the enclosure, they say, held sixty thousand people) there runs a level space. This is my promenade, at all hours of the day. Falcons are fluttering with wild cries overhead; down below, a long unimpeded vista of velvety green, flecked by a few trees and sullen streamlets and white farmhouses - the whole vision framed in a ring of distant Apennines. The volcanic cone of Mount Vulture, land of Horace, can be detected on clear days; it tempts me to explore those regions. But eastward rises up the promontory of Mount Gargano, and on the summit of its nearest hill one perceives a cheerful building, some village or convent, that beckons imperiously across the intervening lowlands. Yonder lies the venerable shrine of the archangel Michael, and Manfred's town. . . .

This castle being a national monument, they have appointed a custodian to take charge of it; a worthless old fellow, full of untruthful information which he imparts with the hushed and conscience-stricken air of a man who is selling State secrets.

"That corner tower, sir, is the King's tower. It was built by the King."

"But you said just now that it was the Queen's tower."

"So it is. The Queen - she built it."

"What Queen?"

"What Queen? Why, the Queen - the Queen the German professor was talking about three years ago. But I must show you some skulls which we found (sotto voce) in a subterranean crypt. They used to throw the poor dead folk in here by hundreds; and under the Bourbons the criminals were hanged here, thousands of them. The blessed times! And this tower is the Queen's tower."

"But you called it the King's tower just now."

"Just so. That is because the King built it."

"What King?"

"Ah, sir, how can I remember the names of all those gentlemen? I haven't so much as set eyes on them! But I must now show you some round sling-stones which we excavated (sotto voce) in a subterranean crypt - - "

One or two relics from this castle are preserved in the small municipal museum, founded about five years ago. Here are also a respectable collection of coins, a few prehistoric flints from Gargano, some quaint early bronze figurines and mutilated busts of Roman celebrities carved in marble or the recalcitrant local limestone.

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