Borgo di Galliciano'
Gallicianò, another hamlet belonging to the municipality of Condofuri, is the only totally Greek-speaking village in Calabria, although the language is spoken, more and more, within the family circle only. Thanks to its isolated position, it has maintained the cultural, craft, musical and dance customs of the tradition and fostered among its inhabitants a strong sense of community and hospitality, traits peculiar to the Greeks of Calabria.
Gallicianò still follows the Byzantine-Catholic rite in the small Byzantine church of Saint Mary of the Greeks [Panaghìa tis Elladas], erected thanks to the efforts of local architect Domenico Nucera, known also as “Mimmolino l’Artista” [Mimmolino the Artist]. Near the church a small amphitheatre has been built from which it is possible to admire the entire valley.
Although sparsely populated, Gallicianò is a lively hamlet known as the area’s musical “capital”. For its inhabitants, in fact, music, song and dance are the core of their authentic artistic heritage, practiced, cherished and handed down from father to son for centuries.
The name of the place is mentioned for the very first time in the Brèbion of the Metropolitam Church of Reggio Calabria written in the late-Byzantine period and given as τό Гαλικίανον, from Gallicianum, the name given in a land-taxation document dating from ancient Roman times. The origins of this village can, therefore, be ascribed to that period.
Gallicianò has been the birthplace of several local poets (known as the shepherd poets). The architect Mimmolino Nucera, nicknamed “l’Artista” and who resides here, has given new life to many abandoned and derelict buildings like the Orthodox church of Panaghìa tis Elladas.
A number of documents record that, in the tenth century AD, immediately after the creation of the Bulgarian state, the Byzantine city of Callicòn, founded by the Romans in the first century BC under the name of Callicum [the present-day Greek-Macedonian town of Kilkìs] was attacked and sacked by the Bulgarians. As a result, many of the inhabitants decided to move to the then Byzantine Tema [province] of Calabria, where they founded the city of Gallicianò.
Perched on top of a rocky outcrop, at about 500 metres above sea level, from the mid-eleventh century on, Gallicianò has towered over the Aspromonte area’s most spectacular valley.
This tiny settlement, where Greek is still spoken today, is permeated by a “highly religious” sense of hospitality. Its inhabitants are always ready to rejoice, banquet and make music to the rhythm of the tarantella. In the hamlet, home to a mere handful of family strains, everyone is related, and may be distinguished only thanks to nicknames, ‘ngiurie, all, in Greek, of course.
The small square is dominated by the church of the patron saint: Saint John the Baptist. The facade, with its bell-tower, looks like a Greek temple and is a sacred shrine, which all the residents cherish and protect. The entrance is at the top of a flight of steps leading to the raised parvis, called a Prepiglio. Here, on every New Year’s Eve, a propitiatory bonfire is lit and a vigil kept to usher in the new day, accompanied by music and dancing, as has been the custom since the dawn of time. Inside the church, at the end of the nave, on the centre of a wooden altar from the Baroque period stands a statue of St. John the Baptist, holding the Lamb on an open copy of the gospel. The coat of arms of the Bishop of Bova, John Camerota, carved on the back of the sculpture, allows us to date the work at some time between 1592 and 1620, although the author remains unknown.
Below, on the left, is a nineteenth-century wooden sculpture of John the Baptist, here portrayed as being young and handsome with his arm outstretched towards God. He is, undoubtedly, the undisputed protagonist of the visceral religiosity of the Gaddhicianisi [Residents of Gallicanò].
EXPLORING THE HISTORIC CENTRE
Travelling along a pathway full of curves and precipices, one reaches some of the houses situated outside the village. Then, after a few kilometres, one arrives at the village which is arranged around the square with the church of San Giovanni Battista, on top of the mount which stands 621 metres above sea level.
Of great importance for the cultural and historical heritage of the village was the inauguration, in 1999, of the small Orthodox church of Panagia tis Elladas (Our Lady of the Greeks) where, on the evening of the 14th August, the funeral procession of the Dormition of Mary was celebrated according to the Greek-orthodox rite. The church, in peasant style, bears testimony to a renewed ecumenical climate, a return “as pilgrims” of Orthodox Christians to ancient Greek places of worship. Inside this church we find a statue of St. John (sixteenth century), a baptismal font, two bells from 1508 and 1683 and some earthenware lamps.
It is possible to visit the hamlet’s Museo Etnografico [Ethnographical Museum] dedicated to Angela Bogasari Merianoù, a Greek philosopher who arrived at Gallicianò in the 1970’s, to study this tiny community which shared the same origins as herself. The museum was created using materials donated by the villagers themselves, convinced that this was the only way to keep the steadily-fading memory of their hamlet alive.
In Gallicianò it is possible to quench one’s thirst at the “Fontana dell’Amore” [Fountain of Love] so called because, in bygone days, it was the place where young fiancés met. In the old Greek-speaking hamlets “official” engagements were known as “cippitinnàu” a compound of the word “ccìppo” [log] associated with the ritual whereby a would-be fiancé placed a charred log at the front door of the house of the girl he wished to marry. If the aspirant “met with the good graces” of the girl’s parents, the “ccìppo” was taken into the house during the night; otherwise the girl’s father let it roll down the street.
The feast of the patron saint of Gallicianò, Saint John the Baptist, celebrated with great fervour on the 29th of August is an event not to be missed.
|Comune||Borgo di Galliciano|