Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Remembrance is a form of meeting.
  -Kahlil Gibran

Librizzi Stemma

 According to local lore, there was in Librizzi an ancient castle or fort situated where today stands the Chiesa Matrice.  It was called the Brichinnai Castle.
Librizzi is located at the pinnacle of Mount Cerannoli, in the Nebrodi Mountains.  From this location there is a splendid view of many towns that surround Librizzi, such as Patti, Tindari, Montagnareale, and Raccuia.  The Gulf of Patti, the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Aeolian Islands can also be seen from this vantage point.  In addition, one can catch a glimpse of Messina and Calabria, especially at night when lights are like distant shining stars. Mount Etna and surrounding areas can also be seen from certain points in Librizzi. The Fiume Timeto and the Torrente Librizzi flank the foothill of Librizzi and they too can be seen from the heights of Librizzi.
Between 580 and 576 BC the Aeolian Islands were colonized by Doric colonists from Cnidus and Rhodes.  In 427 BC, during the first Athenian expedition to Sicily, Lipari, the major island in the Isole Eolie, entered into an alliance with Syracuse.  Thucydides reports that the Islands were attacked by the fleets from Athens and Regium, with serious consequences.  In the Carthaginian expedition of 408-406 BC, Lipari, remained an ally of Syracuse and later was allied with Tindari. The Brikinnai Fortress, with its vantage point on top of Mount Cerannoli, would have been strategically important for the detection of enemy fleets near the ports, as well as any inland military activity in the Leontini region. 
The historical background of Librizzi probably goes back to the Greek-Hellenistic beginnings in Sicily.  The historian and exiled Athenian General Thucydides (460 BC – 395 BC) is the author of “The History of the Peloponnesian War”. In this important work he mentions the names of important fortresses and outposts for the phase of the Peloponnesian War that took place in Sicily, around 415 BC.  In his fifth book Thucydides specifically mentions an enormous military fortress called Brikinnai (or Bricinniae) in the territory of Leontini.  According to this historian the city of Leontini, today Lentini, was founded by Greek colonists from Chalcis a town on the island of Eubea (today Negroponte, a name given to the island 2000 years ago by the Venetians). Greek colonists established themselves along the northern coast of Sicily, from Messina to Capo d’Orlando, these locations were strategically important for defensive purposes.  It seems that the Brichinnai fortress mentioned by Thucydides was located in what today is known as the town of Librizzi, however it is more probable that the Brichinnae Fortress was located in Leontini itself (in the Province of Siracusa) and that refugees from Leontini resettled in what is now Librizzi and built a new fortress with the same name. 
While Leontini was established by the Chalcidians (the same people that built Katane, Catania), Siracusa was established by the Greeks from Corinth. As expected, the two groups fought for supremacy of the region, but now and then alliances were formed.  Around 424 BC at the request of the Leontini aristocracy, the Syracusans expelled the common people (a group comprised by Chalcidians and Sicels) from Leontini.  These commoners and some aristocrats resettled in other parts of Sicily and it is possible that some of them made their new home in what is now Librizzi.  It is also possible that these people built a new fortress and named it after the original Bricinniae fortress which stood in Leontini. Thucydides indicates that most of the fortresses in Leontini were destroyed by the aristocracy as they left Leontini to go live in Siracusa.
 The existence of a Brichinnai castle is also confirmed in a work by padre Ludovico Mariani titled “Santuari Mariani di Sicilia in which the author reports the existence of a castle named Brichinnai (the origin of the word is Greek) located on the pinnacle of Librizzi. It existed in the Byzantine period and up to the end of the Medieval Ages, when vassals lived in that area.     
Along with the Bricinniae fortress, Thucydides also mentions another fortress, Foceas, Phocaeae.  He says that when the Leontini aristocracy became disillusioned with the Syracusans, they returned to Leontini where they allied themselves with the commoners and made repeated forays against Siracusa.  They worked out of the fortified neighborhood of Foceas and the Brikinnia fortress.  Thucydides records that Athens sent the ambassador Phaeax to Sicily in an attempt to unite the different factions of Leontini against Siracusa. Phaeax was able to get the co-operation of the towns of Camarina and Agrigentum but did not succeed in Gela. Phaeax decided that it was a lost cause and returned to Athens.  On his way to his ships he passed ‘through the country of the Sicels, to Catana, and after visiting Bricinniae and Foceas he returned to Athens”. 
There are several documents in existence, from the Norman times, that mention Fulcherum/Focero’ (Foceas or Phocaeae).  These documents place Focerò in the territory between Librizzi and Sant’Angelo di Brolo, specifically in the mountain Fossa della Neve.  The toponym Focerò is probably the Latinized word for Phokairon or Phokairos, a reference to the chorion of Leontini called Phokeai or Phokaiai. The toponym Fossa might be the Latinized Greek word Phokaiai (sounding like the Latin word focus and evolving to the word Fossa). Il Dott. Michele Fasolo has written a book titled “Alla Ricerca di Focerò”.  In the book, after discussing the many documents that mention Focerò and his attempt to locate Focerò, he asks the question:  Is it just a coincidence that the lore of the fortress Brikinnae in Librizzi and the location of Focerò of Norman times are so closely located?  The answer tends to support the idea that the two places are the same as the ones mentioned by Thucydides.
Documents from around 1094 to 1100 make references to Focerò and Librizzi   It was at this time that the Noman ruler Il Gran Conte Ruggero I, resettled 500 Greek serfs and their barons from Calabria and Sicily to areas in the vicinity of Focerò where, from ancient times, existed a castle or fort. Their job was to populate the forested area and to cultivate the land. He also ordered a tower to be built in Focerò, and to be located at place where he could see the lights in the tower from his beloved home in Mileto, Calabria. It was in Mileto where Il Gran Conte lived, died, and was buried. It was in Mileto that Il Gran Conte received visitors such as Richard the Lionhearted before he set out for Jerusalemn. When Il Gran Conte died the tower at Focerò was destroyed by rebel feudal lords and subsequently rebuilt by his third wife Adelasia, in fact it was built and destroyed three different times during the regency of Adelaisa (1101-1112). After her death in 1118, Focerò was destroyed for good by the Corsari Algeri, pirates.  A document from the year 1141, states that the displaced serfs from Focerò, moved to nearby areas inlcuding Vina and Livir.  Livir is Librizzi and to this day there is an area of Librizzi called Vallone della Vina. This document also gives indications about the location of Focerò, placing it, according to Fasolo and others, in Fossa della Neve.  
The Diploma (document) of March 6, 1094, written and signed by Il Gran Conte Ruggero, is about the founding of the Benedictine Abbey of S. Salvatore in Patti. Ruggero gives the Abbey, in perpetuam, vast tracts of land which include the area of Fulcherum (Focerò) and Livir (Librizzi). Several rivers contained within the donated land are mentioned including the river Botani, probably the fiumara in Sant’Angelo di Brolo.  There is also mention of a River which crosses Patti, this would be the Timeto which flows at the foot of Librizzi on its way to Patti and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The first Abbot of S. Salvatore was Ambrosio, brother of  Il Gran Conte Ruggero.  Librizzi was at that time and continued to be for quite some time, territory belonging to the Bishops of Patti. The 1094 historical document which was written in Greek, is preserved in the Arca Magna in the Cathedral of San Bartolomeo, Patti.  The search for Focerò is in part based on this document which describes in great detail the confines of the territory given to the Abbey. Before her death, the widowed Adelasia and Regent for her son Ruggero II, gives il casale (hamlet) di Focerò to the Monastery of S. Bartolomeo in Patti, the actual residence of the Abbot Ambrosio.
The Società Sicula Per La Storia Patria in the collection of “Documenti Per Servire Alla Storia Di Sicilia” supports the theory that Focerò and Brichinnai are in the Librizzi-Sant’Angelo di Brolo area. In the section that discusses the founding of the Abbey of S. Salvatore, the Società says “Nello stesso diploma dona un esteso territorio, facendone la descrizione, all'Abate ed ai suoi successori. Quali siano state precisamente queste terre donate, non siamo riusciti a determinare, malgrado numerose ricerche, perché alcuni dei nomi di esse non solo oggi più non esistono, ma non sono neppure segnati in alcun dizionario topografico. Però, a ricostruire così alla meglio, basandoci sui nomi di cui abbiamo conoscenza, i confini di questo territorio assegnato al monastero, crediamo che la donazione si costituisse di una larga striscia di terra, compresa tra il fiume Timeto o di Patti e la Scala, che s'internava sino a Librizzi ed a fontana del Re e poi, sempre mantenendosi sui monti, giungeva sino alla torre di Brolo, restando così tra questo territorio donato ed il mare , un'estesa superficie di terra esclusa, nella quale sorgeva ed é tuttora la città di Patti.”

The Società, to support the above conclusions, continues to say: “Il prof. Salvatore Cusa fra i diplomi greci della Chiesa di Patti e di Lipari pubblicò la concessione del monte Meliusu, fatta nel 1097 dal Conte Ruggero (2). Questo monte é appunto immediato alla città di Patti, dal lato ovest, ed é chiaro che perché fosse necessaria, solo tre anni dopo della prima, una nuova concessione, esso non doveva esser compreso nel territorio donato nel 1094. Quel tratto dunque di terra che si stende tra il fiume Timeto (limite est), la catena di monti che dalla Scala s'interna sino a Librizzi ed a Fontana del Re (limite sud), ed il monte Meliuso, colla concessione del 1097, (limite ovest), non può esser compreso nella donazione del 1094. In questo tratto appunto sorge Patti, e dobbiamo quindi senz'altro escludere che il primo Abbate Ambrosio abbia esercitata sulla città giurisdizione temporale. ((2) Cusa, I diplomi greci ed arabi di Sicilia, Palermo, 1868, II, p. 509.)

 While researching the history of Librizzi I found documents written in 598 and 599 A.D., which indicate that there were people living in the territory of Librizzi at that time.  The mentioned documents are included in the book “The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire”, Volume 3, by Arnold Hugh Martin Jones, John Robert Martindale, and J. Moris. Cambridge University Press,1992. The documents are copies of the original letters written to and by Gregory the Great (circa 540 to 604 A.D.), also known as Pope St. Gregory I.  Gregory is the only pope between the 5th century and the 11th century whose correspondence and writings have survived. In fact there are at least 854 letters included in the Catholic Annals titled “S. Gregorii Magni Registrum Epistolarum” (Annals).
From a letter in the Annals of Gregory we find that in 598, Ianuaria, a religiosa femina and landowner in Sicily, obtained the help of Fantinus, defensore and ecclesiae in Palermo, against three men (Anastasius 18, Bonifatius 5, and Ingenuus) who were trying to expel her from a property which she had long possessed (Gregory Ep. IX 39; a.598 October).  Ianuaria was successful with her request because of the help given by Pope Gregory.  A year later in 599, once again Ianuaria wrote a letter to Pope Gregory, she now wanted his help in establishing an Oratory on her private estate called “Massa Furiana”, the Oratory would be in honor of Saint Severino Confessor and Saint Giuliana Martyr. Moreover she requests that certain relics belonging to these Saints be given to her so that they can be interred at the Oratory.  Pope Gregory in turn instructs Benenatus, the Bishop of Tindari (Tindari was part of Patti), to allow Ianuaria to build her Oratorio. Gregory also writes to Fortunato the Bishop of Naples and instructs him to send the requested relics to Ianuaria. The location of the Oratory in the territory of Massa Furiana is another identifying element for the history of Librizzi. It is precisely in Librizzi that we find the Torrente (stream) Furio, in the zone called Vallone Furio.  In fact, it is in this zone that today still exist two consecutive arches that go back to the Medieval Ages, one is semi interred in the hill and the other juts over the road that leads to Librizzi center.  The purposes of these bridges, was to bring water from the Torrente Furio to the local mill. Antonino D’Amico, a Librizzese, in his book titled “Librizzi” states that a document dated 1314 makes a reference to the mill and locates it in the area of Librizzi with the following words “Apud molendium Casalem Libricii (in the area of the Hamlet Librizzi).  (A short explanation of the words Massa and Oratorio: Massa meant large tracts of land; Oratorio was a small consecrated building where a family or a small community could pray.)
Wikipedia gives the following information on Saint Juliana, one of the Saints that Ianuaria wants to honor in her Oratorio:
“Saint Juliana of Nicomedia is said to have suffered Christian martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution in 304. She was popular in the Middle Ages, especially in the Netherlands, as the patron saint of childbirth and sickness.
Both the Latin and Greek Churches mention a holy martyr Juliana in their lists of saints. The oldest historical notice of her is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum for 16 February, her place of birth being given as Cumae in Campania ("In Campania Cumbas, natale Julianae").
It is true that the reference is contained only in the single chief manuscript of the above-named martyrology (the Codex Epternacensis). It is nevertheless clear that the notice is certainly authentic, from a letter of Saint Gregory the Great, which testifies to the special veneration of Saint Juliana in the neighbourhood of Naples. A pious matron named Januaria built a church on one of her estates, for the consecration of which she desired relics (sanctuaria, that is to say, objects which had been brought into contact with the graves) of Saints Severinus and Juliana. Gregory wrote to Fortunatus, Bishop of Naples, telling him to accede to the wishes of Januaria ("Gregorii Magni epist.", lib. IX, ep. ####", in J. P. Migne's Patrologia Latina, LXXXVII, 1015).
Centuries later we find another validation of the area called Furio as being part of Librizzi, and that there was a religious community in the same area. It is found in a book titled “Sicilia Sacra”, by Rocco Pirri. Pirri was born in 1577 and died in 1651; he is considered the father of the ecclesiastic history of Sicily as well as the history of the Sicilian Churches.  The second edition of “Sicilia Sacra” was published in 1644; a later edition was published in 1773.  Among the list of Abbeys in the territory of Patti, Pirri includes “S. Maria de Furio in oppido Brizorum”.
The first known document that specifically relates to Librizzi was written in 1117, it is about the amount of service the vassals and their villani (serfs) owed the Monasteries and the Diocese of Patti. Once the Normans established themselves in Sicily, they instituted the feudal system.  Each Diocese was divided in vassalages which owed the Diocese tallages (a tax) called gabelle; in addition they owed a certain amount of personal services called angherie. The obligations of the vassals to the feudal lords were so demanding that they did not have time to take care of their own needs.  Librizzi was one of the vassalages that belonged to the Diocese of Lipari-Patti, specifically to the Abbott Ambrosio who lived in the Monastery of S. Bartolomeo in Lipari. In 1117 the Librizzesi begged Ambrosio to concede them a few days per month to cultivate their own land.  Ambrosio actually ordered that from the year 1117 onward the vassalage of “populo Libricii” be allowed to work three weeks a month for themselves and one week for the Diocese. Ambrosio extended this privilege to all other vassalages belonging to the Diocese of Patti. The document that gives this privilege to the vassals was written in Greek and later translated into Latin, the document is kept in the Archives of Patti. It was published by R. Gregorio in “Opere rare edite ed inedited riguardanti la Sicilia”, p. 117-118.
The Norman rule in Sicily was followed by the Swabian Period, 1194-1244.  One of the important rulers of this period was the Sicilian born Frederick II, known as the Stupor Mundi, “Wonder of the World”. (Frederick, his mother Costanza, and his grandmother Adelasia will be the subjet of future blog entries.)
For a brief period between 1266 and 1282 the French Angevine ruled. They were so odious that the people of Sicily ousted them in a fierce and bloody battle which beagan with the Vespri Siciliani of 1282. It was at this time that the Aragonese were asked to help oust the French rulers, and so began the Aragonese Period which lasted from 1282 to 1453.  The Spanish Inquisition began in 1478 and in 1492 the edict against the Jews was enforced.  Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Carlos V, became King of Sicily in 1516. 
 What happened to the territory of Librizzi after the Norman Rule? The Angevine confiscated the fiefdoms from those who opposed the new ruler Carlos D’Angio. In 1271 the fortified territory of Librizzi was confiscated and given to the brothers Giovanni e Simone Monforte.  The Aranonese period (1282-1453) followed the Angevine. The Aragonese period was a period of wars and general territorial disputes, Librizzi did not escape the constant territorial disagreements. In a document from 1314 King Federico III mandates that the Spaniard Pietro Lopis de Mayola return the land in Librizzi that he had usurped from the feud of the Bishop of Patti, the rightful owner.  Earlier the King had given Pietro some feudal landholdings but Pietro was not satisfied and started to usurp land not belonging to him.  The Bishop complained to the king who in turn told Pietro to get his greedy little fingers out of the Bishop’s land, and to return the illigally gained territory. (Document published by Società Sicula per la Storia Patria)
In 1371 Librizzi was given by king Federico III to Vinciguerra d’Aragona; in 1392 king Martino and his wife Maria gave the territory to Bartolomeo d’Aragona. The same year Librizzi became officially a demanial town. It was at this time that the community increased in numbers, many landowners as well as laborers, artisans, and vassal priests came to live in the area of the fortress. However by the year 1392 the fortress was gone because according to the records, in its place was the Chiesa Matrice, also called Chiesa di San Michele.
 The historian Rocco Pirri says that the son of Bartolomeo Aragona, Giovanni III d’Aragona, as his father’s inheritor, founded the area around the tower of Librizzi. He calls the area Terram delli Brizzi.  However the author of “Librizzi”, Antonino D’Amico thinks that the area was a town before 1392, there is documentation to support D’Amico’s conclusions.  In 1413 together with the Torre, Librizzi was transferred from the baron of San Pietro Berengario de Orioles to Ljanora de Centelles; in 1414 Ljanora returned Librizzi to the Bishops of Patti. 
By the time that the town was returned to the Bishops of Patti, the inhabitants of Librizzi had organized themselves in civitas and major conflicts with the Dioceses of Patti arose.  The Bishop was claiming so many rights and demanded so many balzelli, “iniquitous tax” that the Librizzesi put up a ferocious fight against these taxes. It was at this time that the Librizzesi earned the reputation as the “furmiculi russi”, The Red Ants, an appellation that has survived to this day.  The Bishops retaliated against the tenacious opposition of the Librizzesi by obtaining the help of Pope Pius V who in 1567 and again in 1571 excommunicated the whole town!  The Librizzesi did not cave in, not even after the second excommunication.
During the rule of Carlos V, the town was populated by only 343 people but by 1595 there were 802 people residing in Librizzi. In the next 55 years the town grew to 1567 people, 417 houses, and a second major church was built.
I have written of the Greek origins of the territory of Librizzi, the presence of the Normans and later the Spaniards, but there are at least two more groups that should be mentioned since they too played a role in the melting pot of the people of Librizzi. They are the Musulmani or Saraceni as they called them in that area, and the Longobards or Lombards who emigrated from  Northern Italy to Sicily. We know that the Saraceni lived in the territory of Librizzi because of the toponyms that still exist, the Tubitti that are found in some locations of Librizzi, existing surnames derived from the Arab language, and the fact that for the most part the people who worked the soil were Arabs.  
The Normans justified the conquest of Sicily based on their assertion that they came to Sicily to bring Christianity and to rid the island of the infidels. The feudal system that the Normans introduced to Sicily relied heavily on the use of Muslim serfs to cultivate the land, this is substantiated by the many existing documents.  In Librizzi there are many areas that bear names derived from the Arab language.  At the base of Librizzi there is a section called Feo, meaning Feudo or Fiefdom. According to the sources that I have read the word Feudo (Fiefdom) is derived from the Arab word Fego, meaning large tracts of land.  In Sicilian Feudo is Feo. Several of the contradas (neighborhood, quarters) in Librizzi have Arabic names, for example Contrada Morabiti and Contrada Monastrici. Librizzi itself is part of Monte Saraceno, definitely a reference to the Arab people who lived in the area. The Tubitti are believed to be Arab stone coffins, in Librizzi there still exist several of these Tubitti. In fact I went to the location of a Tubitti while visiting Librizzi in 2009. To my astonishment the Tubitti has been turned into a water fountain!  I was told that there are other Tubitti in the area which have not been altered.  One of the surnames derived from the Arabic which is still found in Librizzi is Morello another is Barbaro.
The Normans rulers in the Patti-Lipari area, especially the Abbot Ambrosio built many Monastaries and filled them with Latin speaking monks, particularly of the Benedictine, Cistercian, and Augustinian orders.  The use of Latin was encouraged and people who spoke Latin were welcomed to live in the area.  Many colonists came from Lombardy and Tuscany a few from from Central Italy), over a period of time they became members of the bourgeoisie and nobility.  There are several towns in the area of Librizzi whose history is rooted in the Lombard culture, Novara di Sicilia is one of them. Certainly some of these Lombards came to live in Librizzi as evidenced by certain toponyms as well as surnames that still exist in Librizzi. Contrada Falleri, Contrada Lambro, Piano Forno, Petriolo, Pietrasanta, Cosentino, Napolitano are just a few names whose origin is in mainland Italy.  For centuries my family has owned estates in the area of Librizzi called Pantano.  Pantano is a surname found in Tuscany, Livorno, Pisa, Firenze, and in Eastern Sicily. It is thought that the word has its origin in a preindoeuropean language whose Latinized version is Pantanus.  It seems to me that the Pantano of Librizzi dates back to the Middle Ages and the influx of the Lombards to the area.
While researching my genealogy I read the Librizzi 1584-1594 Census records. In theses records I discovered that one of my ancestors, lo Spettabile il dottor Ioannis Matheo Muscarà was married to a Gratiosa Maimone. A Silverio Maimone is mentioned several times in the same Census records, I suspect that he was Gratiosa’s father.  The Census records also show that the Muscarà owned houses, land, breeding structures, etc. in Nohara, sometimes spelled as Nucaria. Curious I researched Nohara and discovered that it is a town near Librizzi, today called Novara di Sicilia. Novara is a very old town whose name was originally Noa, a name given the town by the Sicani, an indigenous group of Sicilians who predate the Greeks. Over the years the name changed several times, the Arabs called it Nouah, the Romans called it Novalia, in the Medieval Ages it was called Nucaria, Nuaria, Nucharia, Nutaria, Noara. When the Normans arrived they populated the town with Lombards who left their imprint on the local culture.  At that time Novara had a strong Jewish community which was allowed to continue the practice of her religion. Unfortunately under the Spanish rule the town underwent a tremendous change. In September of 1492 the Spanish brought the Inquisition to Sicily and the Jews were given the option of converting or leaving within the next few months.  Many converted and Latinized their names, one of the new names was Maimone, a surname which still existsts in Novara, and there even is a street named Maimone. 
Libritium, Brizzi, Brizi, Brizorum, Libricium, Librizis, Libricum, Libriccum, Livir, Li Brizzi, Li Brizi, Populus Libriciensis, Populo Libricii, Lubrichios, (Since the Medieval Age the slang version for Librizzi was Lubrizzi or Lurizzi). These are the various names used to refer to the territory of Librizzi as found in a variety of documents and references. Where did the root word for Librizzi come from? There are several theories.  Terram delli Brizzi ‘terra degli Brizi – di Li Brizzi – Librizzi) (1392 Rocco Pirri.
More than likely the people who gave the name to the town of Librizzi were serfs who originally lived in the Feudo of Caccamo in the area of Palermo, and who in Norman times came to live in the territory of the Diocese of Patti. These Caccamo serfs had come from Consentia (today Cosenza), Calabria. Luigi Tirrito, in his 1873 treaties “Sulla città e comarca di Castronovo di Sicilia”, talks about a community of Greco-Bizantine people who lived in Librizzi.  Tirrito cites a document written in Greek by Ruggero in 1123 in which he locates an area between Ciminna and Librizzi (Livritium). The 1123 document is about a case brought to the attention of il Conte Ruggero by Bumadari, son of Patterano and his brothers against a Monella dei Patterani.  The case is about the rights to a mill located on the river Sulla between Librizzi and Ciminna (in the proximity of Caccamo). Ruggero decreed that Monella is the rightful owner of the mill.  This is NOT the same Librizzi that belonged to the Diocese of Patti.  There is a second document written in 1719 and cited by Andrea Massa in his “La Sicilia in Prospettiva”, in which there is a mention of  an area by Caccamo called Livrizzi, Librizzi but written in the local Palermitan jargon. 
Caccamo and the surrounding areas belonged to the fiefdom of a Bonnello and the people within these territories were his serfs and servants. These same people had come from Calabria as villani of Bonnello. It was precisely in Calabria where the Brizzi had their origins. In the early part of the Norman Rule, the Normans founded the Monasteries in Lipari and Patti. Between the years 1085 to 1088 the Normans asked for donations of men to work on land owned by the Monasteries. Most feudal lords sent one or two servants but Bonello sent over a hundred, all of them Calabrians who made their homes in the Bonnello Caccamo Feud.  Certainly some of these Calabria-Caccamo serfs went to live and work in the area that eventually was called Librizzi.
Who were the Calabrian Brizzi? Historians say that from early times and predating the Greeks, there was in the area that today we call Calabria, an ancient Italic group of people who were called Bruzi.  The Bruzi were Indo Europeans who were the servants and shephards of the Lucani people, their indoeuropean language was called Osco. They were a nomadic group of people who fought against their Lucani masters and later with the Greeks. Historians say that the Bruzi, through their strength as warriors and their will to achieve independence and freedom, insured their greatness but at the same time their ruin. The Lucani are the ones who gave these warriors the name of Bretti (Bruzi in Italian, called Bruttii by the Greeks), meaning the rebellious people. Eventually the Bruzi ended their nomadic way of life and built a capital city on top of a hill called Pancrazio. The hill dominated a valley which was separated by two rivers that ran at the base of the hill. The capital was ‘naturally’ fortified because of its geographical position. Both the Lucani and the Bruzi agreed to call the capital Consentia, meaning that there was a concensus by both groups. Today the region is called Cosenza.   
Caccamo had its community called Li Brizzi; in the province of Catania there is Fiumefreddo di Sicilia: in Cosenza Calabria there is Fiumefreddo Bruzio. In the Dioceses of Patti there is the town Librizzi. In Librizzi there is a section called San Pancrazio. Librizzi is situated on top of a hill flanked by two rivers, the Timeto and the Torrente Librizzi. Because of the geographical position of Librizzi she is a natural fortress.  The Bruzi were lovers of freedom and independence and fought for their rights.  Librizzesi became Red Ants for wanting and fighting for the same intrinsic rights. Can we conclude that Librizzi was named in honor of the Bruzi from Cosentia? 
 Finally a word from the “Dizionario Topografico di Sicilia,Volume I”, 1855-1856, by Vito Amico and annotated by Gioacchino Di Marzo. The Dizionario was translated from Latin into Italian.  “Librlzzi. Lat. libritium.  Sic. Librizzi (V.D.) Paese nella diocesi e comarca di Patti che corrisponde alla medesima città versa austro, sopra colline, costituito nell'anno 1392 da Bartolomeo di Aragona, e che conosce oggi a Signore il Vescovo di Patti imperocché sorgendo in quel luogo una torre, di dritto vescovile, ed assegnala la città in clientela di Vinciguerra Aragonese,  avendo questi il tulto usurpato, edificò il di lui figliuolo Bartolomeo il paese intorno la fortezza, che per la di lui fellonia diede in dono il Re Martino ad Eleonora Centelles; pregò poi il Vescovo nel 1414 acciò si rendesse alla sua Chiesa, ed otenne di più per munificenza del Re Alfonso la facoltà di eligerv i magistrali. La parrocchia o la principale Chiesa e sacra a S. Michele Arcangelo, e si Ia sotto di se 5 filiali ; abitavano un tempo i Carmelitani nel terrilorio, ma si ritirarono per la tenuità delle rendite. Contaronsi sotto Carlo V 343 anime , ma nel 1595 se ne segnarono 802; nella meta del secolo seguente 417 case, 1567 abitanti ; ma nel 1713 si ebbero 311 fuochi e 1106 paesani, che sono attualmente (1760) 1078. Fecondo è il territorio, e somministrando olio, seta, vino, frutti, biade, arricchisce i coloni. Vi sorsero egregii: Andrea Muscarà esimio giureconsulto e celeberrimo avvocato, fregiato di meriti e di onori, poiché presiedette più volte giudice della M. R. C. e fu promosso nel 1666 a Patrono del fisco ove mostrossi incorrotto. Antonio Collurafi notissimo per la insigne erudizione, e chiarissimo per la commendazione dei letterali; si trasferì in Venezia, dove in breve tempo conosciuto, lesse per pubblico decreto le più amene scienze ed istituì molti discepoli anche dalla primaria nobiltà, i quali si ebbero un posto trai celebri eruditi; ascritto con sommo onore nell' ordine cavalieresco di S. Marco, caro sommamente a Ferdinando III Imperatore, ed a Filippo IV Re delle Spagne, fu eletto pubblico cronografo del Regno, e donato della dignità di Ciantro della Cappella Palatina di Palermo ; fiorì nella mela del secolo XVII e pubblicò alcuni lavori nominali singolarmente dal Mongitore nella Biblioteca Sicola(1).
(1) E un comune in provincia di Messina da cui dista 54 m., distretto, circondario e diocesi di Patti donde 4 m. Si ha due sole chiese delle quali una è la principale, e l'altra minore è dedicata a N. D. della Catena; 4 però ce ne hanno nel territorio. Ritornarono i PP. Carmelitani ed occupano un grazioso convento. Ci ha una pubblica scuola elementare pei giovinetti, e finalmente un monte agrario tal convertito nel 1838 da una colonna frumentaria istituita da Biagio Celauro per la panificazione nel 1785; dipende dal Consiglio generale degli Ospizii, e vien diretto da due amministratori eletti biennalmente dal Decurionato col l'approvazione dell' Intendente; il capitale è di sal. 69, tum. 8 di frumento, valutato in denaro al prezzo corrente in ducati 667. 20; Si distribuisce con obbligazione dinanzi il Giudice Conciliatore in quella quantità che si domanda, avendo riguardo alla probità dei chiedenti. Contavansi 1200 abitanti nel 1798, indi 1476 nel 1831, e 1732 nel fine del 1852. L'estensione territoriale di Librizzi è di sal. 814, 764, delle quali 2,801 in giardini, 2,409 in orti semplici, 2,065 in canneti, 17,793 in gelseti, 34, 640 in seminatorii alberati, 294,168 in seminatorii semplici, 340,173 in pascoli. 10,895 in oliveti, 20,655 in vigneti alberati, 42,636 in vigneti semplici, 0,368 in sommaccheti, 6,515 in ficheti d'India, 7,229 in castagneti, 9,190 in noccioleti, 23, 227 in boscate. L'aria è sana:
Vien detta questa terra Libritium, Brizzi, Brizi, orum dal Pirri, Libricium dal Maurolico, Libritium dal Pirri e dal Carafa, Librizis da Arezio, Libriccum da Goltzio.

Several interesting things from the information given in the Dizionario Topografico di Sicilia: The author gives a brief history of Librizzi, gives information about the number of people who lived in the town at different periods, describes the town as agriculturally fertile, lists the exact acreages that are cultivated for specific products. For example, mulberry trees for the feeding of the silk worms are grown on 17,793 hectares of land.  The industries are oil, silk, wine, fruit, fodder. According to the Dizionario there are two major churches in Librizzi center and two others in the countryside, there is also a charming Carmelitano convent. There is a public school for the young children and a monte agrario. The monte agrario was a municipal institution instituted in Librizzi in 1785 to help indigent people by lending grain for planting. There was strict monitoring by elected representatives who insured that the borrowers were not exploited. Fires must have been a serious problem, in 1713 alone there were 311 fires.
 Vito Amico also wants the reader to know that the air of Librizzi was very healthy. Imagine, even in those days there were people who were concerned about the environment. In 1824 Librizzi was still a ‘healthy place’, we know this from a book titled “Sicily and its Islands, Memoir Descriptive of the Resources, Inhabitants, and Hydrography, of Sicily”. The book was written by Captain William Henry Smyth, an Englishman. The Statistical Table in this book shows that Librizzi is a town in the Demone, there are 1200 inhabitants, the environment is wholesome, and the town sits at the top of a steep rocky mountain.
  Two of the distinguished Librizzesi cited in the “Dizionario Topografico di Sicilia” are Andrea Muscarà and Antonio Collurafi, both are my ancestors. Their history will be the topic for future blog entries.
             Dedicated to my Ancestors and to all of the Librizzesi, past and present.
                              End of Part I, History of Librizzi by Maria
To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root..
-Chinese Proverb

The limbs that move, the eyes that see,
These are not entirely me;
Dead men and women helped to shape
The mold which I do not escape;
The words I speak, my written line,
These are not uniquely mine.
For in my heart and in my will
Old ancestors are warring still,
Celt, Roman, Saxon, and all the dead
From whose rich blood my veins are fed,
In aspect, gesture, voices, tone,
Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone;
In fields they tilled I plow the sod,
I walk the mountain paths they trod;
And round my daily steps arise
The good and bad of those I comprise.
                        By Richard Rolle of Hampole

Photos will be added in a few days.
                Part II, History of Librizzi by Maria will follow at a later date.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


One of the Carmelos in the photo below is my cousin and lives in Librizzi, the other Carmelo is a Theater Director and lives in Northern Italy. The two young men are both named Carmelo Rifici. My cousin Carmelo has a beautiful website at  www.librizziacolori.eu    and it so happens that one day the Carmelo who is a Director discovered the website and fell in love with it. He also was intrigued by the person who carries the same name as his. The Director contacted my cousin and they became friends, so one day the Director went to Librizzi to meet his friend. They liked each other so much that they became 'cousins'.

Well, my cousin Carmelo is extremely proud of his 'cousin' Carmelo who last night was awarded the equivalent of an Oscar, or better yet a Tony,  for Best Director. The play is "I Pretendenti", a comedy written by Jean-Luc Lagarce who died at the age of 38.

I am sure that the name Jeremy Irons is well known in the USA, he too was honored with the International Award for his work in the "Merchant of Venice".

For more information on Carmelo Rifici the Director please go to   http://www.librizziacolori.eu/regista/carmelo_rifici_regista.htm  While you are there you might want to check out my cousin Carmelo's beautiful website.

The full news article below is at the following web address: 



13/09/2009 - Giorno 11 settembre 2009 sono stati assegnati i “Premi ETI – Gli Olimpici del Teatro” settima edizione 2009 (promossa dallo Stabile del Veneto e dall’Ente Teatrale Italiano con la Regione Veneto e il Comune di Vicenza) votati da una Giuria di oltre quattrocento artisti e professionisti teatrali. Con gioia ed emozione vi do notizia che il premio per il Miglior Regista è stato assegnato a Carmelo Rifici per “I pretendenti”.

Questo è l'elenco completo dei premiati: - A Franca Valeri, il “Premio speciale del Presidente della Giuria” . Per lo spettacolo di prosa: “Sogno di una notte di mezza estate” di Luca Ronconi. Miglior Regista: Carmelo Rifici per “I pretendenti”....... A Jeremy Irons è stato assegnato il premio speciale internazionale “per la sua straordinaria capacità di coniugare schermo e palcoscenico, con uguale passione e rigore ed, in particolare, per l’interpretazione del personaggio di Antonio nel film Il Mercante di Venezia”.

Oh yes, the one on the left is Carmelo Rifici the Director, the one on the right is Carmelo Rifici my cousin. 

And this is the end of the story!

Friday, September 11, 2009




Monday, September 7, 2009


Do you think that “Black But Beautiful” is an American slogan?  Well, not really.  The town of Tindari in Sicily has honored these words for centuries.  
Each year on September 8, the ancient town of Tindari celebrates the feast of the Black Madonna del Tindari.  Pilgrims from near and far places come to worship and celebrate the day.  The statue that represents the Madonna is sculpted from wood in the Byzantine style.  The words Nigra Sum Sed Formosa are incised at the base of the statue.  Some believe that the words are taken from the Book in the Old Testament, Song of Songs.  It is believed that the statue was brought from Syria or Egypt during the iconoclastic epoch or during the Crusades.  The statue is housed in a beautiful Sanctuary located on a promontory above the Tyrrenean Sea, and can be seen from miles around.  Tindari is only a few miles from Librizzi and the Sanctuary is easily seen from this town. 
There are several legends attributed to the Madonna.  The first one is about the arrival of the statue to Tindari.  Apparently the ship that was carrying the statue ran aground near Tindari during a storm.  After the storm the sailors tried to get the ship back into the sea but were unable to do so until they put ashore the statue.  The statue was left behind and the ship continued its trip to her destination.
Another legend is about the mother who came to Tindari to worship the Madonna but when she saw the statue she blurted out that the Madonna was ugly. Later that day her child accidentally fell off the cliff of Tindari into the sea below.  It would have been certain death for the child but the Madonna took pity and a soft sandbar appeared and saved the child.
Tyndaris was one of the last Greek Colonies in Sicily and is historically interesting, later the town flourished under the rule of the Roman Empire.  Both cultures left their architectural imprint on this town.   When I have  time I will write more about this town which was named for Tyndareus, father of the Dioscuri. 

Friday, September 4, 2009


The History of Labor Day

Information obtained from the United States Department of Labor

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.