Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 37 Facts and fiction

Writing fiction should be easy. You can say and do anything your little heart desires so why is my fictitious heroine being so obstinate?

Her stubbornness reminds me of my dog, Oscar. He may weight only 10 pounds (that's 4.55 kilos, for the benefit of my nitpicking Canadian editor friends) but when he decides he's not going any further, that it. I could just drag him along and strangle him with his own leash or I can just accept that he has a good doggie reason for what he's doing. I just have to wait him out.  

At 4 p.m. I go tired of wrestling with my heroine and went out for some air. I grabbed my camera and marched off.

I went past one of those grey abandoned houses just down the street and remembered it as the one Mario Catalano’s mother had pointed to as once belonging to a witch. I took out my camera to take a quick picture but it wouldn’t work.

Coincidence? I think not.

Soon I was at the mouth of Calimera. I took a muddy road to the left, which I'd never done before, walked a few hundred feet and came across a perfect little chapel: Cappella  del Mantovano dedicated to la Madonna delle Grazie.

The door was open and I stepped into a graceful room with a tall altar facing the door, all fashioned out of creamy local stone. A small round painting of the Virgin and Child took pride of place at the altar’s centre. It’s not the original though. That one was stolen in 1981.  

Someone had placed a pair votive candles on the altar’s steps and several pots of fresh flowers white and yellow flowers. Two tiny folding chairs stood against the west wall.

As I looked around, a 20-something woman entered. She wore running clothes, loose red shorts and a sleeveless top. She dipped her fingers in the holy water font beside the door, genuflected and exited. 

I would have liked to remember my visit to that welcoming chapel with a picture or two. But, of course, my camera was quite dead. (I triple checked, including putting in new batteries.)

The poster outside the chapel gave a bit of its history: Built in 1696 by offerings made not by the townspeople themselves but by their neighbours in  Martignano, where I’m staying.  

But legend has a different story. It gives credit for the chapel to a merchant from Mantua who got caught in Calimera during a hurricane and miraculously survived.

Fact or fiction?

Martignano has several chapels. This one, dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie., was built in 1608. Long gone from its interior is a once revered fresco of the Virgin with Saints Elisio and Donato (patron saints of animals and much revered by farmers), described in a 1755 report of a papal visit. Because it was always open and the Franciscan sisters had a convent nearby, desperate mothers abandoned their babies within its protective walls.

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