PHOTOS: COURTESY OF D’ALESSANDRO FAMILY, PESCOLANCIANO (ITALY)
The tremendous earthquake has only touched upon this charming corner of Italy, Pescolanciano, home to one of the most beautiful castles in central Italy. Tomorrow, Saturday, I’ll be there, to present the new edition of my book dedicated to Alexander, martyr and soldier and to talk about art, history, culture and architecture, launching a message of solidarity to the nearby populations affected by the fury of the earthquake.
Alexander and its iconography of martyr and soldier inspired so many artists and fascinated the same ancient Knights Templar of D’Alessandro noble family in Pescolanciano (Molise, Italy) where there is a great and ancient castle which will be the enchanting setting of the book presentation (Saturday August 27, 2016, 4pm).
ABOUT THE ANCIENT D’ALESSANDRO CASTLE IN PESCOLANCIANO
The castle of Pescolanciano is located in a strategic position for control of the Castel di Sangro-Lucera sheep-track. The small church belongs to the original nucleus. In 1656 the place of worship was moved inside the castle to house the relics of Saint Alexander, transferred here from the Roman catacombs. The name Pescolanciano originates from the old designation Pesclum Lanzanum (Pesclum means rock whileLanzanum originates from Lanz, the name of the owner of the lands). In the reign of William II the feud was held by Berardo de Calvellis, mentioned in the Catalogus Baronum. With Frederick II (Diruenda castrorum) the castle shared the fate of many other Molisian fortresses. Later it passed into the hands of the Carafa family, the Spinelli family and the Eboli family of Naples until (1576) it was sold to Rita Baldassarre, wife of Giovan Francesco d’Alessandro. The castle underwent several modifications, especially in 1600 when the entrance was moved to the esplanade that leads to the drawbridge, and then again after the 1805 earthquake.
The castle perches on top of a rocky spur and can be accessed through a drawbridge (1691). A great variety of masonry styles are noticeable, with bonds that bear witness to a large number of modifications and repairs. The floor plan is trapezoid. The bulk of the four-sided keep and numerous traces of functional installations (cisterns, chimneys, niches and storerooms, cellars) as well as defensive ones (chemin-de-ronde transformed into a panoramic terrace, arrow slits and murder holes, cannon ports) are still recognisable.
MY BOOK AND THE WONDERFUL ICONOGRAPHY ABOUT ALEXANDER
A rich selection of works demonstrates how the arts over the centuries have bestowed a singular and striking homage to Alexander, the patron saint of Bergamo, an enchanting and ancient city near Milan (North of Italy). The artists list includes great names as sculptur Giovanni Ugo da Campione ( XIV century), Vincenzo Foppa (1430-1516 ), Lorenzo Lotto ( 1480-1556 ), Giovanni Battista Moroni (1520 / 24-1578 ), Giacomo Palma il Giovane ( c. 1548-1628 ), Antonio Boselli ( c. 1475 – c. 1530), Enea Salmeggia ( 1550-1626 ), Giovanni Paolo Cavagna (1556-1627 ), Carlo Ceresa ( 1607-1687 ), Francesco Coghetti (1802 -1875 ). These artists told through image an extraordinary story which corresponds to the content of “Passiones” documents and to the imaginative projection of the people as an expression of a simple and genuine faith .
The iconography always presents Alexander with its military uniform – the armor symbolizes virtues such as courage and strength – and the lilies banner which expresses his role of flag-bearer and leader; lily flower is at the same time synonym for purity, transparency of mind and appointment, in the biblical sense of the term . The extensive series of frescoes , sculptures , paintings, tables, miniatures, mosaics, stained glass, embroidery, frontals, stucco and silvers illustrates and honors the reputation of Alexander , exalting his courage, the spiritual power of those who fought ” the good fight “, to the ultimate sacrifice.
Alexander (died c. 298-303) is the patron saint of Bergamo. He may simply have been a Roman soldier who was tortured and killed for not renouncing his Christian faith. As I write in the book, subsequent Christian stories (the so-called “Passiones”) consider him a flag-bearer of the Theban Legion commanded by Saint Maurice.
Prior to the commencement of the Diocletian in 303, both Galerius and Maximian in the West inaugurated, on their own responsibility, a crusade against Christianity and sought particularly to remove all Christians from the armies. St. Alexander was one of the victims of this persecution. He is reputed to have been a survivor of the decimation (the killing of every tenth man) ordered against the Theban Legion. He escaped to Milan.
At Milan, he was recognized and imprisoned, and it was demanded that he renounce his Christian faith. However, he was visited in jail by Saint Fidelis and Bishop Saint Maternus. Fidelis managed to organize Alexander’s escape. Alexander fled to Como but was captured again.
Brought back to Milan, he was once more condemned to death by decapitation, but during the execution the executioner’s arms went stiff. He was imprisoned again, but Alexander once again managed to escape, and ended up in Bergamo after passing through Fara Gera d’Adda and Capriate San Gervasio. Alexander was once again captured and was finally decapitated on August 26, (298 or 303) on the spot now occupied by the church of San Alessandro in Colonna. Bergamo Cathedral is dedicated to him and dates from the 4th century, and he is one of the saints in the dedication of the church in Rome for natives of Bergamo.