Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Maria Muscarà

"It is not that I belong to the past, but that the past belongs to me"

I dedicate this blog to my children, grandchildren, ancestors, descendants and the town of Librizzi.

My life and my story began in Sicily in a town called Librizzi. Majestic Librizzi, beautiful Librizzi, treacherous Librizzi, unforgettable Librizzi.

The town of Librizzi has always fascinated her citizens and like a Greek Siren charms and chains them to Herself. Once Librizzi catches you in her sweet and magical web you can never extricate her presence from your heart. In the 17th century one of my ancestors il Dott. Francesco Muscarà wrote a poem as a tribute to another Librizzese Il Cavalier Antonio Collurafi to be placed in the book "Il Nobile Veneto" by Collurafi. (Antonio Collurafi, philosopher, author, teacher, historian, was one of my Librizzi ancestors on my mother's Calabrese and Luca lineages.) Although the poem is in praise of Antonio Collurafi, it is also a poem in praise of Librizzi. Librizzi forever immortalized by my ancestor! No wonder that even after an absence of fifty six years the town is still part of my heart.

Poem Del Signor Francesco Muscarà

Those are the words of the Seventeenth Century Muscarà. The following is a translation of the poem from the old Italian into the current Italian by a Muscarà descendant who lives in the Twenty First Century. His name is Salvatore T.professor, scholar, researcher, and expert of Latin and Greek.

Del Signor Francesco Muscarà

Questa cittadina, che è un piccolo mondo,
è splendida e primeggia,
è nutrice famosa di illustri eroi,
sposa del grande Nettuno
e vera autrice di sante leggi,
è castigatrice di ogni vizio.
Come la pianta alta, innalza la sua cima "la pianta alta" is Librizzi
dalle libere radici che risorgono
fra le onde d'Adria,
e come madre della gloria,
risplende in ogni clima straniero.
Oh tempo, non avvenga giammai
che una nera nube
oscuri il chiaro lume
e cancelli la gloria dei suoi antichi semidei;
perchè in eterno, per i secoli futuri
vivrà grazie alla tua illustre penna
e , viva, darà a te fama
e a lei una nobile voce.

Two thousand years ago Cicero wrote in the first paragraphs of the "De Legibus" his idealized thoughts about an island found near the birthplace of his ancestors. Although the area whose qualities he extolls is in the mainland of Italy I can identify with the universal feelings about one's roots and one's patria. In the year 2003 after an absence of many decades I returned to the beautiful island of my youth, Sicily. As I walked the streets of Librizzi I felt the presence of my ancestors and we became a unanimous soul. So I repeat Cicero's words: translated into English:

" We walk between the high poplars along the banks shimmering emerald, opaque. We have arrived at the island, there is nothing more beautiful than this. Here it is that the Fibreno opens like a bird's beak. Here is my real home and my brother's too. From here we spring from ancient stock; here all that we call holy. Here our relations, here so many memories of our ancestors."

Photo by Carmelo Rifici

Librizzi rises from a spur in the Monte Cerannoli situated between the streams Petrolo and Librizzi, it faces the Golfo of Patti and the Valle del Timeto. Il Timeto is the river that flows at the feet of Librizzi. From various locations in Librizzi there are spectacular panoramas to be seen. Standing in the Piazza della Catena on a clear day jutting out of the sea are seen the Isole Eolie of Salina, Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea, Basiluzzo, and Stromboli. From the plateau Rifugio delle Martore there is a most beautiful sweeping view of parts of the Province of Messina, and parts of Catania. Mount Etna and the volcano seem to be reachable with an extended hand. In the Pineta di Cirannuli is found a spur surrounded by vast panoramic views including the Monte Ilici(or Fossa della Neve). Librizzi is divided into many zones, some larger than others, the principal on es are Colla-Maffone, Nasidi, and Murmari.

The first documents that mention the "populo Libricii" go back to the year 1117 indicating that the area was inhabited bef ore the founding of the community in 1392 by Bartolomeo D'Aragona. The village was founded near an old look-out tower belonging to the Bishop of Patti. The village was later taken away from Aragona by King Martino and given to Eleonora Centelles a woman of Spanish origin, by 1414 the village was returned to the Bishops of Patti. It is believed that the Chies a Madre was constructed on top of the remains of an old tower of a castle called Bricchinnai (built by Greek colonists, probably from Corinth, Greece), however today there are no visible indications of a former structure. When the village of Librizzi was established it was in fact a fiefdom populated by 53 families descended from the original Greek inhabitants of Sicily, these families were served by 59 families of Arabic descent. Before the Norman conquest of Sicily no fiefdoms existed but after the conquest a heavily taxed feudal system of vassals and feudal lords was instituted by the Normans. In Librizzi members of the 59 families worked the feudal lands, cultivated sugar canes, tended the mulberry trees that sustained the silkworms for the prosperous local silk industry. According to the local records the two ethnic and economically different groups coexisted harmoniously. Today areas of Librizzi still have Arabic derived names such as Contrada Morabiti, Contrada Maradici, an area of Librizzi referred to as Saraceno, etc. By the beginning of the XV Century a strong tension existed between the feudal lords or barons and the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily, la Regia Gran Corte. There were many revolts or disagreements due to the oppressive taxation, and an emerging strong sense of personal freedoms and rights. By 1537 Costituzioni Sinodali were being drafted in Sicily unifying laity and religious citizens. Little by little Librizzi too was obtaining more freedoms and growing as a community in size and independence f rom the Bishops of Patti. Starting in the early 16th century the town began expanding beyond the Chiesa della Catena and the piazza where this church is located became the new center of the town. The Sicilian Parliament outlawed feudal land holding s in 1812, and the War for the Unification of Italy of the 1860s abolished any vestiges of feudalism. Today the town of Librizzi is no longer dependent on agriculture as its main livelihood, most of the Librizzesi work in salaried jobs. Also many of them have moved from the old areas of the town at the top of the hill to the Bivio Colla at the feet of the hill to be closer to their jobs in nearby towns.

My Muscarà ancestors were instrumental in the running of the feudal lands of Librizzi and in forging from the feudi an independent town. The feudi were governed by the Giurati who were the highest governing officials appointed by the Bishop. The Giurati then appointed and w ere assisted by Maestri Notari and a Capitano. The Segreto and Vicareo Foraneo were also very important administrators as they were the personal representatives of the Bishop whose feudi they governed. In the book "Librizzi" by Antonino D'Amico there is a definition of Secreto,"Ogni Uditore di Rota, giudice della Sacra Romana Rota, poteva scegliere due aiutanti di studio, se era decano anche tre. Ogni aiutante veniva denominato SECRETO, qualifica di un magistrato al grado iniziale e riconosciuto ufficialmente dal collegio rotale." The Sacra Romana Rota is the appellate tr ibunal of the Holy sea and the second highest ecclesiastical court in the Roman Catholic Church. The word Rota(wheel) comes from the fact that the judges called Uditore originally met in a round room to hear cases. Their main function is as appellate tribunal reviewing decisions made by lower courts.

Members of the Muscarà family were at different times of the history of Librizzi Giurati such as Don Andrea Muscarà, and Don Pietro Muscarà (Documented in Riveli di Bene e Anime of 1748), Secreto, Vicareo Foraneo, lawyers, judges, priests, monks.... In 1587, the Secreto in Librizzi was Il Magnifico Pietro Muscarà. The same year Lo Spettabile Gio Matteo Muscarà is mentioned , I do not know what was his profession but his title indicates a high position. In 1655 the Vicareo Foraneo was sacerdote Pietro Muscarà. (Three of the Muscarà family names that were perpetuated from century to century were Francesco, Andrea, and Pietro)

Recently I read some pages of a book titled "Messina Città Nobilissima, descritta in VIII libri", by Giuseppe Bonfiglio e Costanzo, Cavalliere Messinese. The book was published in 1738 and among other things describes and defines what a Giurato was. The author says that the authority of the Giurato was huge as was his "degnità". The Giurati had a huge "patrimony", and they were the ones who elected the "Governatore dell'artiglieria, i capitani, il Promedico, and other positions. The Giurati were not under the rule of the Giurato of the Reign, in other words , the Giurati were just as powerful as the Royal officials. The book colorfully describes the pageantry that surrounded the Giurati, from the black velvet clothes that they wore to the retinue that followed their comings and goings. Their horses wore the "livrea" of the towns that the Giurati visited. Musicians clad in velvet of different colors determined by the instrument that they played such as "tamburi, trombetti, pifferi....." walked ahead of the Giurati as they entered the town. The Corte dei Giurati were assisted by "Assessore, Avvocati, Mastro Notario, quattro Secretarij, Tesoriere", and the already mentioned singers, musicians, etc. Most of the Giurati were of Noble background, but a small number of Cittadini could also be elected.
In my mind's eye I am visualizing my Muscarà ancestors who were Giurati making their "grand entrance" into the town of Librizzi. I am sure that the 18th century Don Andrea Muscarà and Don Pietro Muscarà had no idea that they would live again centuries later in my "memory" and in my genealogy.

The previously mentioned poet "Il Dottore Don Francesco Muscarà" was obviously a scholar and a man of great importance albeit I do not know what his career was at that time. This Don Francesco Muscarà is also mentioned by several authors in books about Librizzi such as the book "Librizzi, Documenti, uomini e fatti prima e dopo il mille" by Antonino D'Amico. In this book there are some short excerpts of communication between Dott. Francesco Muscarà and Antonio Collurafi, the letters were found among the Baptisms and Deaths records of 1598 to 1667. In
one of these records we find out that in 1622 the son of Dott. Francesco Muscarà and his wife gentildonna Masella la rotta died(this is the Fancesco who wrote the poem).
In the Riveli of 1714 I found a different "Il Dottore Don Francesco Muscarà" who was son of Teresa and Antonino, 42 years old, and the Capo di Casa. His young children were Don Rocco age 12, Don Antonino age 10, Donna Angela, Donna Teresa. In addition to the Muscarà family a large number of people who may or may not have been related to him lived in his house. His holdings/assets were vast including the land at the FEU, Sicilian for fiefdom. The document enumerates all of the assets and land owned by Don Francesco and also records the huge amounts of taxes that he had to pay to the Bishop of Patti and the various churches in Librizzi. The Muscarà's FEU was passed down from generation to generation and until his death in the 1960' s it was owned by my grandfather Giuseppe Muscarà(don Pippinu) who was the last direct inheritor of the family estates. I do not know if the FEU is still owned by a Muscarà family member or if it was sold after grandpa's death. The FEU is located by
the Timeto River at the Colla.

Colla, area of FEU

Another Muscarà of note was Don Andreas Muscarà who was born in Librizzi toward the end of the 16th century and who remained an integral part of the town despite his fame and periodic absences from the town. He was a celebrated lawyer, an expert at law, a judge, a scholar and publisher of many Opere Giuridiche. He received many honors, was Assessore of the Grande Curia Archivescovile di Palermo, and Assessore of the Gran Curia Regia. He was a judge of the Concistoro della Regia Coscienza, and he was also a distinguished Avvocato del Fisco where according to official records he demonstrated that he was incorruptible. Don Andreas Muscarà died in Palermo on November 11, 1666. According to the Bishop's Archives in Palermo, Don Andreas is buried in the Church San Antonio di Padova, 90134 Palermo Corso Tukory n.2 Palermo, Sicilia.

TITLES of some of the judicial works published by Don Andreas Muscarà:

Defensionem Immutatis Ecclesiasticis. Palermo, tipografo Nicola Bua e Michele Portanova 1617.

In folium: Consilium in Caus a Competenctia Iurisdizionis Vertente Inter Eminentis. Dom. Card. Montalto

Archepiscopum, tipografo Nicola Bua e Michele P ortanova 1647.
In folium Consilium in Caus a Competenctie Iurisdizionis Vertente Inter Eminentis. Dom. Card. Montalto

Archiepiscum Montis Regalis Ex Una, Illustris Inquisitores Partes Ex Altera. Edito da Francesco Baronio

In Consiliis Diversorum Siculorum Super Privilegio Felicis Urbis Panormi, Quod Fiscus Non Possit Principaliter
Agere Contra Cives. Panormi apud Maringum 1656.

In 4. Allegationes apud Paululm Franciscum Berramut In Costictu Iureconsultorii par. 3 to. 2. à p. 290.
plurimorimum manibus teritur

Consultatio Iuridica Extactione Tanadarum In Donativo Per Tria Brachia Impositum, Ill. E Eccell. D. Ferdinando De Ayala Comiti, Ayale E C. Proregi. m. s. in fol.

Additional inf ormation on Don Andreas Muscarà can be found in "Biblioteca Sicula, Uomini illustri di Sicilia" published by A. Mongitore.

Don Andrea Muscarà is also found in the book "Nobiliario di Sicilia" by Dott. A. Mango di Casalgerardo. This is the information given for the name Muscarà " Un Andrea fu giudice della Gran Corte delRegno negli anni 1654-55-56 e 57, 1663; governatore della Tavola di Palermo nel 1711e del Monte di Pietà dellastessa città nel 1713; un P ietro fu senatore di Palermo nel 1688-89 e consigliere della nobile compagnia deiBianchi di detta città negli anni 1686-86 e 1690-91. Non sappiamo se sia appartenuto a questa stessa famiglia quel Giuseppe, dottore in leggi, che fu giudice capitaniale di Marsala 1812-13."
The Andrea who was governatore della Tavola di Palermo in 1711 is a descendant of the Don Andrea who was giudice della Gran Corte. The Giuseppe who was giudice di Marsala is probably of the same family. I found another Giuseppe Muscarà in Ficarra where he was the town's doctor and surgeon.

Stemma Muscarà

Some Librizzesi think that the Don Andreas Muscarà was instrumental in bringing to Librizzi the beautiful Gagini statue of Maria Santissima della Catena, perhaps at his own expense. This thought is supported by what is found near the beautiful statue which resides in the Church della Catena located in the piazza. The Muscarà Stemma inscribed with the name Don Andreas Muscarà is located near the ceiling high above the Gagini statue(It is the only Stemma in the church). Below the Stemma on the wall behind the Madonna the date 1664 is painted, the number 16 on the left side of the niche and 64 on the opposite s ide. Don Andreas died in the year 1666 so if he made the gift of the statue to the church and the Librizzesi it must have occurred a few years before he died. Some people point out that the Madonna was brought to Librizzi at a time long before Don Andrea. I do not know what was Don Andrea's contribution to the church but I do know is that there is a reason for the location of the Stemma right above the famous statue. I also know that even though Don Andreas was a celebrated "personaggio illustre" living in Palermo at the time of his death, he was born a son of Librizzi and continued to be part of the Librizzi moral and social brotherhood until his death. Additional evidence of his involvement with the citizens of Librizzi is found in the baptismal records where the name of this Don Andreas is frequently mentioned because he was Godfather to many Librizzi children.

Madonna della Catena
Photo by Carmelo Rifici

September 26, 1655 was an important day in the history of Librizzi. It was the day that all of the Cittadini of Librizzi, clergy and secular citizens, swore allegiance to the precepts of the Catholic Church. Each of them recited the following formula "Così prometto, così giuro, così sento, e sui santi Evangeli di Dio". Don Andrea Muscarà was one of the Cittadini who swore allegiance with the following words "Io Andrea Muscarà giudice così sento, così giuro, così prometto, così Dio mi aiuta e questo sopra i santi Evangeli" . Two other Muscarà ancestors who made the vow were sacerdote Pietro Muscarà, vicareo foraneo, and archipresbiter Roccus Muscarà. (There were many other non Muscarà ancestors from my paternal as well as maternal lineages who also made the vow such as sacerdote Agostino de Gregorio, sacerdote Paolo Sidoti, sacerdote Antonino Gatani, sacerdote Benedetto Stuppia, sacerdote Leo di Gregorio, suddiacono Blasio Lamanna, clerico Pascasio Capitti, Don Francesco Finocchiaro governatore di Librizzi, Domenico Stuppia and Nunzio Gugliotta giurati di Librizzi, don Francesco Gregorio,........). In addition to the of ficials there were 161 men and 41 women citizens who made the giuramento, undoubtedly
some of them were Muscarà ancestors.
The Reveli of 1747 and 1748 show that there were several Muscarà priests in Librizzi at that time. For exampleSacerdote Don Simone Muscarà son of Michele Mu scarà and .....Laurea.

The year 1656 was another year that brought to the religious history of Librizzi more drama. Il reverendo Claudio di Todaro had commissioned in 1654 a statue of San Michele Arcangelo (patron Saint of Librizzi). The statue arrived from Napoli to Messina in the year 1656 but having been exposed to contagious elements it was kept on the ship for three months at which time the officials wanted to burn it along with all of the other items from the ship. The statue was so beautiful that it was decided to quarantine it instead. Unfortunately the Messinese intensely loved the statue and did all in th eir power to prevent the statue from leaving their city. After much negotiating the statue was allowed to be brought to the town of Librizzi where it was received with tears and devotion by the Librizzesi. In addition Archiprete Don Rocco Muscarà ordered fireworks to be displayed along with the sound of drums to celebrate the arrival. Finally the statue was brought to the Chiesa Matrice on the orders of the same Don Rocco Muscarà where more celebratory activities occurred. The celebrations included music and a Mass sung by il dott. Pietro Muscarà.
San Michele Arcangelo

On the 25th of October of 1752 the Bishop of Patti came to Librizzi at which time he administered the Sacramento of the Cresima. At this event many Muscarà children were confirmed, and many Muscarà adults were the Godparents to many of the town's young people. At least two of the officiating priests were Muscarà ancestors, Don Andrea Muscarà a descendant of the celebrated lawyer Don Andrea, and Archiprete Rocco Muscarà(a different Rocco from the above mentioned I assume). Don Andrea and Archiprete Rocco were also Godparents to many of
the children that were confirmed.

Cicero attributed the Siciliani the following three characteristics: intelligence, diffidence (sense of distrust), and humor. Librizzi is no exception especially when we are talking about their sense of humor as shown by the following anecdote. In 1786 a big earthquake damaged Librizzi including the Chiesa Madre, la chiesa di S. Biagio, and the chiesa di Maria SS. della Catena. Each of these churches wanted to be restored first and as a result a sense of competition arose. Letters were written to the Bishop one of which shows a great deal of humor by today's thinking.
Among other things the letter explains why the church in the piazza s hould be finished quickly. One of the reason given was to save the women from being "exposed" by the wind when they go to church at the Chiesa Madre at the top of the hill. "....d'affronto e disonore alle povere donne, che colà si portano nell'occasione della Santa Messa, che facilmente avviene ne giorni ventosi vedersi le loro nudità, giacchè alcuni hanno bisognato abbassarsi a terra sino a quanto un intervallo di calma...." This letter was signed by many of my ancestors including members of the
families Natoli, Procopio, Marziano, Arlotta, Bertolone, Capitti, and the Supplicante Salvatore Muscarà(probably the one who was my 3d great grandfather) and Eugenio Muscarà. Good Librizzesi who were trying to spare the faithful Librizzi women from embarrassment and hardship!

Chiesa Madre
Photo by Carmelo Rifici

Piazza Catena

Is it possible that the Librizzesi can be defiant? Fractious? Lets see. The towns around Librizzi refer to the Librizzesi as the "furmiculi russi" Red Ants a moniker that pleases the Librizzesi up to this day. In the local elections in May of 2002 one of the group running for public office had as their symbol a "furmicula russa"! How did they get this appellation? History shows that the Librizzesi became a thorn on the side of different bishops of Patti in whose fiefdom the land of Librizzi belonged. The Librizzesi decided that they did not want to pay the tithe to the Bishop and acted in a r ecalcitrant manner. They disobeyed the Bishops so much and so often that twice, in 1567 and in 1571, the whole town of Librizzi was excommunicated! It is no surprise that many years later in the Reveli of 1748 the Giurati Don Francesco DiBlasio, Don Pietro Barbaro, and Don Pietro Muscarà complained that there were various "difficultà" with the Librizzesi.

Beauty, humor, religion, perseverance, stubbornness, family, land, what else is Librizzi? It is unexpected disasters, earthquakes, storms, mud slides, mushroom poisoning, abandoned babies, childhood mortality, .....

From the above anecdote relating to the 1786 earthquake and from other documents, we already know that earthquakes occurred in Librizzi regularly and sometimes with horrible results. In addition other natural disasters or devastating contagious diseases were prevalent and at times whole families were snuffed out. One example of diseases that devastated Librizzi was the peste(plague) that started in in June of 1577 and ended two years later with the death of Mastro Perseo Greco.
Another examples of a death due to natural disasters was that of Antonino Coppolino who died on December 13, 1837 at the 23th hour . He died "per causa d'essere morto portato da un alluvione". During a flood, the Fiume di Francescido carried Antonino to his death. The year 1837 saw a lot of death in Sicily as cholera hit the Island hard, but interestingly the death toll in Librizzi was rather light. A few years later in 1842 a family perished for reasons unknown. They were Biaggio Procopio, his wife Maria Teresa Amico, and their child Francesca Procopio. (Biaggio and Maria Teresa's daughter, Marianna Procopio, was my 3d great grand aunt. She was married to Filippo Ficarra son of my maternal 4th grandparents Mastro Bonaventura Ficarra and Rosa Gatani.) The year 1844 brought death to another Librizzi family: Catena Mastrantonio, age 13, died October 20; her mother Carmela Mantineo, age 40, died October 25; Carmela's mother Anna Merenda, age 66, died October 27. The father Francesco Mastrantonio died December 11, 1855. In 1883 another family from Montagnareale and living in Librizzi, Natoli/Danzi, perished between May 27 to June 14. Grandparents, parents, and children all were gone within days of each other. Why were whole families periodically wiped out? I do not know but certainly diseases and natural disasters played a huge role.

The year 1852 was a fateful year for the Librizzesi, a huge amount of them died throughout the year and especially in the months of January, February, March, and August. From letters sent by the Librizzi archiprete Francesco Gregorio to the Bishop of Patti one can read that this particular year was beset with "cattivo tempo", bad weather. The mayor Giuseppe Arlotta also writes that the Church della Catena needs repairs due to damages caused by "cattivo tempo". After reading the death documents for that year I have concluded that in 1852 there were a series of alluvioni e frane(floods and landslides) that smothered many Librizzesi. Some of my ancestors who perished that year included members of the following families : Procopio, Marziano and Gregorio on my father's side; Adamo, Salemi, and Gatani on my mother's side. Entire families were wiped out within hours of each other. It is interesting that most of the documents that catalog these deaths are water damaged!

I record the following names in memory of my ancestors who lost their lives in the year 1852:

Cousins: Carmelo Tinghino age 1, January 28; Antonino Gugliotta, age 13, March 21; Don Natale Procopio, age 34, March 29; Michele Collo afi, age 2; Maria Concetta Finichiaro, age 2, August 4; Antonia Sinatò, 9 months, August 12; Rosalia Muscarà, 10 months; Gaetano Merenda, age 44, September; Antonino Ficarra, age 8, October 12; Giuseppe Gugliotta, 10 months, November 12.

Aunts and uncles: Teresa Salemi, 2 days, January 27(daughter of Angela Adamo and Mastro Gaetano Salemi); Donna Maria Gregorio, age 40, March 30; Pietro Merenda, age 88, June 8; Eufrasina Marziano, age 10, July 2; Anna Adamo, age 65, December 12.

Grandparents: Donna Carmela Gregorio, age 70, January 27; Angela Adamo(grandmother on the Luca side of the family), age 45, January 27; Mastro Gaetano Salemi(husband of Angela Adamo) age 40, January 27; Carmela Adamo age 44(sister of Angela; grandmother on the Calabrese side of the family), January 27; Teresa Gatani, age 80, August 30. (Subsequent research indicates that my ancestors died in a landslide. More on this subject on another blog entry.)


Third great grandfather Don Domenico Procopio, age 61, husband of Donna Anna Cilona and son of Don Antonino Procopio(notaro) and Donna Marianna Muscarà). Don Domenico was "ritrovato morto nella contrada Ceruto? perchè soffocato da burrasche". He was found dead suffocated by 'storms'. The date was December 24, 1852. I am sure that for my ancestors it wasn't a very merry Christmas that year. May the above ancestors and all of the Librizzesi that died that year rest in peace.
An aside comment: When I was a young child mom used to point out the remains of a demolished house and then she would tell the story of an avalanche that ocurred in the early 1930s. The avalanche destroyed the house and killed its occupants who were our relatives . She then would point to a house next to it which miraculously wasn't touched at all by the avalanche!

The force of devastating nature was a constant element in the lives of the Librizzesi, as was the force of more gentle flora. Who would have thought that mom's great grandparents would be "affected by funghina? The story was still remembered by mom and her generation, and when I discovered the documentation of this event in the death records of Librizzi, I was totally astounded that the event was a fact and not an embellished remembrance. The year was 1873. These are the members of my family who died because of "affetto di funghina": Don Antonino Procopio (son of Don Pietro Procopio and Donna Catarina Gugliotta), husband of Donna Angela Procopio. A son Giuseppe Procopio, age 11, and a cat. Devastated by the deaths, the pregnant Angela went into labor , the infant twins Giuseppa Procopio and Antonino Procopio died two days later. Before this family catastrophe Antonino and Angela had to face other challenges such as in 1869 when their sons Domenico, age 1, and Francesco, age 13, died probably because of a childhood disease. Donna Angela, furmicula russa that she was, did not let personal tragedy destroy her. She, like many other Librizzesi, was a survivor and did not allow the treacherous path of life snuff her gusto for life. Years later at the age of sixty, to the chagrin of her surviving daughter and mom's grandmother Caterina Procopio, she remarried. Her new husband was Don Carmelo Arlotta.

The inhabitants of Librizzi traditionally have been a family oriented and religiously principled group of people. So it came as a great surprise to me when over and over I read in the birth and death documents about the many children that were "found" here and there. Most of these children of "genitori incogniti" were officially registered by the midwife who would state that she "found" them or that "the parent does not want to be found". Many of these babies died in infancy, but many others survived and were given names by the midwife or by the town officials. Librizzesi as well as other Sicilians of earlier times used humorous and at times poignant names and surnames for these children. Here is a sampling of the names given to these "trovati(found)" babies: Eustachio, Clementina, Colomba, Eugenia, Lucrezia, Matilde, Fabbiana, Amore, Desiderata, ..... Some given surnames were words that meant 'unknown'; often part to the name contained the word for mountain or hill; a combination of numbers such as thirty, fourth, fifth; .... I choose not to divulge the actual surnames out of respect for those innocent children and their descendants.

The names of the midwives were all recorded along with these children of Ignoti Genitori. The babies were placed by the town officials with an appointed care giver but most often these children remained with the midwife who became the care giver. Sometimes, years later, a parent would come forward and claim these children as their own and legitimatize them. One parent who earned my respect was the gentleman Giovanni M. His daughter had been named Concetta Bellezza but became Concetta M. when dad claimed her. It took him twenty years but he finally did the correct and loving thing. It is interesting that the birth record states that the baby was found well dressed and with six gifts by her side. Concetta, her father, and the man that she married were all related to my family. Another male who came forward and claimed his child was a Giovanni F. In fact fathers often claimed and raised their own children without ever divulging the name of the mother. The mother seldom kept a child but if she did, she usually would divulge the father's name. I did find in the birth records one exception, the woman kept her daughter but never divulged the father's name. In general the 'found' children were financially provided for by the town, but often the funds were secretly provided by the "unknown parent" or other relative such as a grandfather.

As the 19th century progressed there were fewer and fewer "found" babies and more and more "figli naturali". The unmarried parents usually lived together as a family and when a child was born the parents declared in the birth records the status of their union. Many years later when the children reached adulthood and were about to marry the parents often would get married first and then legitimize their children. A poignant story was found in the records of 1881 when a thirty five year old woman was on her deathbed and her dying wish was to legitimize her five children "naturali" . The town officials were called to her deathbed and after ascertaining that she was of sound mind, they united in marriage the parents of these children. The children were legitimized a few minutes later. This story was repeated with other dying women in 1885 and in 1903.

The mortality rate for newborn babies and older siblings was extremely high in past centuries as was the untimely death of the mothers. Frequently the mothers died at childbirth or a few days after giving birth, their babies usually died along with the mothers. The husband, usually very young, found himself without a wife and a bunch of children who needed a mother. It was not unusual for the widower to remarry within months of the death of the wife. Sometimes the same person would be widowed and remarried several times throughout his life span. Of course some husbands also died young and the widows often remarried. What I found interesting is that often the widow would marry a man much younger than herself, not just by a few years but by twenty or thirty years. I assume that these were marriages of convenience, perhaps for inheritance reason. Whatever the reason, it was a common occurrence.

Librizzi women inherited land and it remained in their possession even when they married. In the Riveli di Bene e Anime I found many documents (as far back as the 16th century) where the women were the Capo di Casa and who owned land, houses, livestock,.etc. In my own family historically the women have been economically independent, in fact my grandmother Catena Rottino owned huge amounts of land in the Pantano area of Librizzi. When she died the land was inherited by all of her children including my father. I recently found out that I own some of the
Muscarà-Rottino land at the Pantano. Since my father had sold his estate at the Pantano, I believe that this land was deeded to me by two of my aunts, Teresa and Eufrasina. I have to admit that I feel honored to own Librizzi land that has been in the family for many centuries, somehow the knowledge makes me feel close to my ancestors. In 2003 I went to visit the Pantano and standing on this land I felt the presence of my ancestors!

Librizzesi also known as Furmiculi Russi, have a history of pigheaded stubbornness which has allowed them to survive through the vagaries of Sicilian history, and the constant natural disasters that plagued the town. A stubbornness that allows the survival of their soul and of their indomitable spirit. Librizzi and her inhabitants clinging majestically and precariously on the slopes of Mount Cerannoli. As my ancestor Il Dottore Don Francesco Muscarà wrote in his poem many centuries ago, Librizzi and her children stubbornly and eternally live on.

Today, old Librizzi lives on mostly in the memory of her children and in the history of the town. Many of today's Librizzesi have left the lofty aerie called Librizzi and have gone to live at its feet in Santopolo, Bivio Colla, Colla Moffone, etc. From these locations it is easier to go to work in the nearby towns, but they can look up and see the ancient Librizzi still precariously perched at the top, watching over her children who have abandoned her for a new way of life. Many other Librizzesi have left the town of their ancestors for newer and different life experiences in bigger Italian cities. Many more have gone overseas, to North America, to South America, Australia, and to places where opportunities for work is the promise. But Librizzi is not forgotten, She lives in the hearts and memories of her children. Children Librizzesi living and enjoying new lives in different Italian cities and in new countries, and at the same time hoping for a chance to see one more time their beloved paese natale.

Antonino D'Amico a contemporary Librizzese writes the following poem in his book "Librizzi, documenti, uomini e fatti prima e dopo il mille":


Sfolgori o Librizzi,
in un amplesso di nuova luce,
sei la meta dei miei sogni,
ma da essa partire
fu il mio destino.

Antonino D'Amico wrote this poem in 1982. I well understand this poem as it expresses my feelings very well. Il sogno is all that a lot of us have left, but it is a beautiful sogno.

Carmelo Rifici a Librizzi cousin on my mother's side of the family has a beautiful web site which features the people and the town of Librizzi:(www.librizziacolori.eu).
Many have visited this web site and have fallen under the magic spell of what Librizzi has to offer. One of the visitors to the Meluccio's website is a son of Librizzi, the writer Nunzio Cocivera. To honor his native town and the web site dedicated to Librizzi he wrote a poem titled "Librizzi a culuri" in which he captures the spirit of the town, its colors and scents. This is what Carmelo Rifici writes about the poem and the poet: "L'Amico Nunzio Cocivera ha voluto dedicar e la poesia 'Librizzi a culuri' ai Librizzesi e a questo sito, richiamando alla memoria i colori e i profumi del nostro paesello. E' il canto un pò nostalgico ed appassionato di un figlio di Librizzi, che da buon siciliano, ama sconfinatamente e non dimentica. 'Com'erimu beddi quannerimu carusi...." I fully identify with the passion and nostalgia expressed in the poem. The distinguished Nunzio Cocivera, who writes in Italian and in Sicilian, chose the beautiful language of Sicilian to write his poem. I cite the poem with the kind and gracious permission of the author:

Librizzi a culuri

Librizzi pi tia u primu suli
Pi tia i primi brizzi e i primi culuri du suli
Cu l'aquazzina ti dormi a sira
Ti risbighi a mattina
Supra sa cullina erittu e fieru
Comu un guerrieru a sfidari
U ventu eternu turmentu
Ci si oggi ci si dumani pi to fighi librizzani
Si u nostru paisi librizzi
Puru si semu luntani
Unni semu semu
semu librizzani, e ti vulemu beni!
Mi ricordu a ramigna virdi
E tutti i culuri nta vigna
I culuri da vinnigna!
Com'era bonu du vinu!
A sudda a cicoria.
I finocchi sarbaggi frijuti ca livi
I carduna, i carcioffuli sarbaggi fritti ca farina
I rapuddi cu pipi.
Nta livi a cutulari, o a coghiri nuciddi.
Com'èrimu beddi quanner imu carusi
Ni cumminavumu di tutti i culur i!
O Librizzi... Librizzi....

Tavemu nto cori chi to culuri
Chi to sapuri!

Nunzio Cocivera, November 2006

I am a daughter of Librizzi with all of its goodness and all of its frailties. Did it surprise me to learn that Pope Pio V in the year 1567 and again in the year 1571 excommunicated the whole population of Librizzi? Yes, but I love it! I am proud to say that I am a "Furmicula Russa" at heart. It is nice to know that my sometimes intransigence has honorable Librizzese roots. But it is not just stubbornness, it is a desire to assert one's rights and the willingness to suffer the consequences for what is right. It is the trait that has allowed me to survive many painful events in my life. And it is the trait that has allowed me to adapt to new experiences in a new country, and to appreciate and love another beautiful place on earth called USA.

The Muscarà Stemma and the Muscarà surname

The Muscarà Stemma is found in the church of Maria Santissima della Catena, Piazza Catena, Librizzi. The symbol of the Stemma is the body and tail of a lion and the head of a lamb, the right paw holds a Chalice. Over the chalice there is a star with eight points. This Stemma also contains the initials SPE F and the name Don Andrea Muscarà. I assume that the motto of the Muscarà is Speranza e Fede(Faith and Hope). It seems to me that the motto and the Christian symbols come from the Bible, Revelation 5. In this section of Revelation it is told that the Lion from
Judah's tribe, the great descendant of David, has won the victory, and that he can break the seven seals and open the scroll. Then a Lamb, who appeared to have been killed, is seen taking the scroll from the one who sat on the throne.....The Revelation to John was written at a time when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith and the writings were to give hope and encouragement during this time of suffering and persecution.

The top of the Stemma is crowned by a crown or coronet which has seven points. In heraldry the seven visible points indicate the title of a Barone. Dario de Judicibus in his "L'Araldica Italiana" states that "con la cimatura di dodici perle (sette visibili), collocate sul margine del cerchio o sostenute da altrettante punte" indicated the title of Barone.

The surname Muscarà is derived from the Greek word Moschari (Muskarion/Muscarion) which means "colui che possiede vitelli", "he who owns calves". The Greek word for vitello (calf) is Moskos. The words Muscarion and Moskos are found in the original Greek Bible when referring to the "calf" and it being the required sacrifice at the altar.

To forget one's ancestors is to be
A brook without source
A tree without
A root

Chinese Maxim

A few words to my sons, grandchildren, and descendents : Our Librizzi roots go back many centuries. This is our story and the font from whence our future springs. I remember and honor our ancestors and entrust our descendents with the memory of us.

I want to thank il Signor Nunzio Cocivera for his gracious permission to include his poem "Librizzi a culuri" in my genealogy. To learn more about this son of Librizzi and his writings please go to:
http://ilteatr odicocivera.org/

I am grateful for the assistance of another son of Librizzi, and my cousin, Carmelo Rifici. Carmelo has given me permission to use his beautiful photographs of Librizzi. His web site www.librizziacolori.eu is a feast for the eyes for lovers of Librizzi, nature, local culture, and other interesting material.

A special thank you for my cousin Salvatore T. for the translation into modern Italian of the poem written by our ancestor Il Signor Francesco Muscarà.

I am also grateful to my cousin Gaetano T. for obtaining for me books on Librizzi and Librizzesi.

Suggested reading material to learn more about Librizzi and its people:

1. Antonino D'Amico "Librizzi, Documenti, uomini e fatti prima e dopo il mille" EDAS 1996
2. Marco Marziano "Memorie di ieri e dell'altro ieri".
3. Beniamino Lisi " Il gufo di maggio" Benucci Editore, 2001

Web sites of interest:

1. www.librizziacolori.eu
2. http://www.ilteatrodicocivera.org
3. web.tiscali.it/virgilioLibrizzi

Oleander and Ginestra are two typical flowers that grow profusely in Librizzi.

I, Maria Muscarà am the researcher and author of the above article. No parts may be reproduced without my permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.