Borgo di Pietrapennata
The tiny hamlet di Pietrapennata stands a few kilometres to the north of Palizzi Superiore, and owes its name to the rocks that tower above it. According to the local oral tradition, the Knights of Malta founded it before it was destroyed in 1696, as a document in the Reggio-Calabrian archives recalls. The presence of the Knights of Malta may be associated with the name of a nearby church: Madonna dell’Alica, which according to some refers to the victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571. In particular, it seems to refer the miracle attributed to the Madonna of Victory, which took place in Rome on the 8th of May 1622 and still commemorated in the Roman church of Spirito Santo [Holy Ghost]. The sculpture of the Madonna dell’Alica was brought to Pietrapennata in 1887 with an altar made, it seems, from salvaged Mediaeval stone and enhanced in 1762 by the addition of an elegant marble-inlay frontal. The sculpture of the Madonna con Bambino [Madonna and Child] may be attributed to the Mazzolo or Gagini workshops because it probably belongs to the period when the diocese of Bova was under the Ajerbo d’Aragona family (1572). According to documents of the time, the church was built to house the statue when an oxcart miraculously transported it up to this hill after it had been washed ashore at Palizzi while on its way to Sicily.
THE CHURCH OF THE MADONNA DELL’ ALICA
To reach the ancient monastic site of the Alica one needs to take the country roadway skirting the hamlet’s cemetery. This road leads to a crest from which it is possible to catch sight of the circular contour of the Calabrian promontory as well as of the church standing on the hillside. This is a single nave building with an adjoining steepled bell-tower, decorated with blue majolica, dating from the early decades of the seventeenth century. On the southern wall there are remains of the porch or cloister of a Basilian hermitage, identified by some as the monastery of St. Hippolytus, or its grange.
Pietrapennata was the object of the attentions of the Milanese landscape artist Cosomati, who, in 1927, published a photo of the Church and of the beautiful marble statue of the Blessed Virgin with the Christ Child in her arms, in the Christmas edition of the “Italian Illustration” magazine.
Edward Lear in his Journals of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria describes Pietrapennata in the following terms: “…The village of Pietrapennata contains nothing remarkable, but from the height immediately above it, one of the most glorious landscapes bursts into view. What detached and strange crags! what overhanging ilex and oak ! what middle-distance of densest wood! what remote and graceful lines, with the blue expanse of the eastern sea, and the long plains of the eastern side of Italy […] O rare woods of Pietrapennata ! I do not remember to have seen a lovelier spot […] go where we may, we shall hardly find another Pietrapennata…”
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