Two years ago, almost to the day, gale force winds toppled these over 300 year old beech sentinels on top of our neighborhood pilone, smashing it to bits and killing the massively beautiful trees that provided shade for this roadside shrine and ambience at the top of our hill. Pilone as they are called in Piedmont or Capitello Votivo, are simply small structures usually made of concrete or wood that houses a Roman Catholic icon of the virgin Mary. These small shrines, whose traditional roots reach back to ancient times, where usually constructed to commemorate a local narrow miss or ward off the specter of famine or disease. Sometimes it is where someone has died or a community focal point, where people will bring flowers and light long burning candles and often pray or recite the rosary.
|Original Serre Marcheto pilone and 300 year old beech trees|
Our pilone sat just to the side of the top of our neighborhood road and was a lovely spot alongside our road. It had been painted on the outside by a local artist, to depict two saints; one was San Giovanni Batitista or John the Baptist and the other was San Antonio Abate or St. Anthony, patron saint of animals.
It came as quite a shock when the trees fell as they had stood tall for so many years and were seemingly in good health. We get some fierce winds from time to time up here on our perch and just like two years ago we have had some strong winds the past couple of days. Not nearly as strong as that time, but just as distracting when they blow non stop for a couple of days. You can see from the photos below just how big the trees were and what force it took to topple them and what a force when they fell.
|What was left of our Serre Marchetto Pillone's virgin Mary icon|
But if you take a look at the bottom photo the above collage, you will see that the virgin Mary icon was literally untouched. She lost part of her body but compared to the rest of the building it was quite shocking to find her in such good shape. One of our neighbors stood her up in the debris for all to see.
It didn't take long for the neighborhood to agree to replace the pilone and restore the Virgin Mary back to her place on the hill.
This summer found the pilone restored and partially painted again, with John the Baptist, San Giovanni, rededicated on his name or feast day of June 24th. I wrote a post about this date back in 2007 that you can read about here if you like. Fabrizio's grandfather's name. was Giovanni, who grew up here, as well as his father before him and so this is a special painting for our family. Our friend and neighbor Lorenzo Zappa, who also is a painter, brought new life to the restored pilone and has painted new depictions of both saints.
When I took these photos this summer Lorenzo had almost finished one side with San Giovanni but not the other.
The Virgin Mary icon has been replaced.
Can you see Mt. Cucetto reflected in the glass?
San Giovanni painting is now finished.
San Antonio Abate was finished this autumn and rededicated this week, as January 17h is his feast day. Our neighborhood Gran dubbione church celebrated is day this Sunday with the blessing of the animals and the giving of blessed sweetened bread with fruit for attendees of this special mass. The mass use to be a blessing mostly of the farm animals that they stay healthy and strong, as they not only did much of the work in the rural areas, they also were a source of food, so it was important that they were well looked after, including being blessed by the priest. Celebration of San Antonio's day these days oftentimes is more about the blessing of household pets.
|The view from the pilone looking towards Grandubbione|