Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 27 A little history

San Pantaleo is the patron saint of Martignano. Every year, they have a great big celebration on his feast day, July 27.  I confess, I'd never heard of this guy. According to, he was a young doctor from Nicodema, beheaded for his Christian beliefs in 305. His earthly remains, it seems, are scattered in churches all over Italy, including his blood, which is preserved in Ravello's cathedral. A reliquary in Martignano's Santa Maria dei Martiri contains some of that blood. It's kept in a glass vial within a wooden shrine covered in silver.   

The townspeople believe S. Pantaleo saved Martignano from a "tremendous" hurricane on Nov. 16, 1718. Every year on that date (I'll be here!) they build a big bonfire to commemorate their narrow escape.

These folks here take such good care of their church and the huge statue of S. Pantaleo in the church square. So I find it hard to understand why they've allowed another church and attached convent to fall into dereliction.

The convento di San Franceso was built by the Franciscans in the early 16th century, the attached church in 1770.  But the whole shebang shut down in 1809 when a nasty bugger by the name of Giocchino Murat ordered all monastic orders to disperse and confiscated their property. Today, the municipality owns the church building but the convent eventually fell into private hands. It's for sale!

Murat is an interesting character. He was born Joachim Murat in France, the son of an innkeeper who got kicked out of the seminary for brawling. He went into the army (eminently reasonable for a born brawler) and shot up through the ranks in Napoleon's army. He made it all the way up to King of Naples (1808 to 1815). History says he was a gifted and daring leader, which no doubt contributed to his meteoric rise in the army. However, the jet fuel provided by his marriage to Napoleon's youngest sister Caroline, couldn't have hurt. 

But as Bonaparte's empire started to crumble and so did Murat's, and so did their relationship. He tried to find allies among other Europeans, hoping to keep Naples but failed. He had the nerve to run back to France to ask for Napoleon's help but his brother-in-law kicked him out of the country.

Never one to take no for an answer, he tried to recapture his kingdom with a handful of men. He was promptly arrested sentenced to the firing squad. 

Murat had had a reputation as a dandy dresser, and he remained a vain creature to the very end. On Oct. 13, 1815 before he gave the order for the soldiers to fire on him, he’s is reported to have shouted: "Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face."

What a swell guy!

The towns owns the church (left) but the convent, which is actually attached to the church itself is is private hands and currently for sale. 

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