I have had a lifelong interest in angels, they fascinate me, and they make me happy. I do not mean the spiritual presence of Angels but the iconography of angels, statues, paintings, Christmas ornaments that feature angels, anything with the form of angels. Do I worship Angels? Not really. I just like the idea of angels, and man’s interpretations of what an angel looks like.
How did this interest in angels begin? I grew up in an area of Italy that reveres the Archangel Michael. Many churches in Sicily feature a beautiful statue of the Archangel Michael, the patron Saint of many cities and towns is the Archangel Michael, and there are many feasts and celebrations in honor of the Archangel Michael. The town of Librizzi is one of many that have a special reverence for San Michele Archangelo.
Photo by Maria Muscara'
The Chiesa Matrice, located at the highest point of Librizzi is dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo and it is in this church where the beautiful statue of the Archangel is kept. The statue sculpted from wood, has a historical story associated with it. Interestingly the story connects the statue with my ancestors, particularly with Don Rocco Muscara’ and il dott. Pietro Muscara’. Perhaps my interest in angels was born in the lives of my ancestors and passed on to me through generations of ‘angels loving genes’.
The following is a synopsis of the story associated with the statue of San Michele:
Photo by Carmelo Rifici
In 1654 the Reverend Father Claudio di Todaro from Librizzi decided to commission from Naples a statue of San Michele Arcangelo, the protector of the town. It took a year to complete the statue and finally in 1656 the statue was transported to Messina. Unfortunately the plague was raging in Naples and the captain of the ship that carried the statue was ordered to burn all of its contents including silks, precious fabrics, money, and the statue. The captain fought to have the statue quarantined together with himself and all of the sailors. The Senators of Messina and the Public Health Officials, having seen the beauty of the statue, agreed to a quarantine of three months.
At the end of the quarantine Father Claudio gave permission to the Senate of Messina to have the statue displayed at a church in Messina and then it was to be brought to the rightful church in Librizzi. The 24th of September of 1656 a huge number of people went to see the statue and having seen its beauty petitioned the Senate to keep the statue in Messina and never allow it to leave Messina. The next day Father Claudio found out of the plan and for three days begged the Senate to allow the statue to be brought to the rightful owner, the town of Librizzi. Other important people also requested that the statue be allowed to leave Messina. The Senate refused to do so and Father Claudio was about to give up when he made one last effort. Finally the Senate decided to allow the statue to leave Messina and ordered the Messinesi not to interfere with the transport of the statue. Finally the statue arrived at the port of Patti and from there it was transported to Librizzi and placed in the church of a Convent.
That same evening, after the Angelus was completed, the townspeople “displaying great devotion”arrived at the Convent to greet the statue. The same night the Archpriest Don Rocco Muscara’ and the town’s officials, ordered bonfires to be lit throughout the town, fireworks were set off, drums were played, etc. The welcoming celebration was continued the following Sunday (October First), with a procession which included all of the officials of the town, religious groups, and the townspeople. The statue was carried to her permanent location in the Chiesa Matrice and placed on the altar. A Mass was sung by il dott. Pietro Mucara’, and Father Claudio gave a laudatory sermon in honor of San Michele. Finally San Michele Archangelo was declared the Patron Saint of Librizzi. (The document from which this information was obtained is found in the parochial archives of Librizzi. The whole document is cited in the book “Librizzi” by Antonino D’Amico)
Photos by Carmelo Rifici
The story of the statue continues, after 345 years the statue of San Michele Arcangelo has returned to Messina to be part of an exhibit titled ‘Angeli Senza Tempo’! It arrived in Messina in December and will remain there until the end of the exhibit (January 23, 2011). Let’s hope that the Messinesi will not try to ‘kidnap’ the beautiful statue once again!
ANGELI SENZA TEMPO
The exhibit ‘Angeli senza tempo’ covers the period from the XVI to the XX century. The 34 works of art shown in the exhibit, demonstrate the role of Angels in sacred representations. Included are guardian angels, revelatory angels, warrior angels, spiritual angels, musical angels, adoring angels, cherubs and putti angels. The exhibit includes paintings, sculptures, cloth and silver artifacts. The works of art are set up to show the progression of artistic interpretation of angels, from the ethereal angels to the humanized physical form.
The statue of the Librizzi Archangel is sculpted from wood, painted, and gold plated. It is a winged angel holding a sword. (An Archangel is an Angel of high rank.)
Photo by Carmelo Rifici
On the 8th of January a large delegation of Librizzesi went to see the exhibit and to visit their beloved San Michele.