Wedding, Funeral and Christening in Abruzzo
We spent an amazing week with Nora and her family traveling about beautiful Abruzzo. That week was full of fun, talks, great impressions and little discoveries.
The first day of their arrival in Abruzzo they came to see me in Montesilvano and we went to its historic center Montesilvano Colle. We admired the splendid panorama of the town which opened from the hill and visited the church of Saint Michael Archangel. In the church we viewed the beautiful statue of the Madonna della Neve from the neighboring church which had been under reconstruction. The church was elegantly decorated with white flowers and we supposed that a wedding would take place there.
When we went into the street, we saw that smartly dressed people were already arriving to the ceremony. We stood near the church and watched the whole scene. It was 16.48 and the bridegroom was already waiting for the bride and looking rather anxiously at his watch. At 16.58 a big white automobile came in sight at the beginning of the street.
The crowd rushed to meet the bride. The girl was very beautifully dressed in a long flimsy garment. Two elderly ladies began setting straight her skirt and veil. She walked slowly into the church arm-in-arm with her very elegant father. The church bells were ringing. We felt as if we were present at a film shooting.
Two days later we went to the hill town of Atri. I wanted to show Nora the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with splendid frescoes of Andrea de Litio. When we tried to enter the side door of the cathedral we discovered that a religious service took place there. So we decided to take a cup of coffee and then try again. When we walked around the church we saw a hearse parked near the front door. It was an elegant silvery Mercedes richly decorated with fresh flowers and a card with the name of the deseased person attached to the back window.
We were sitting in a street bar across the square and waiting for the end of the requiem mass. Finally the door opened and a priest accompanied the coffin to the car. There were few people who applauded when the car started to move. Surprisingly nobody followed the hearse which went away rather speedy.
I told my friends that we had already met a wedding and funeral in Abruzzo as in the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. John responded that we should see a christening.
And we met a christening! When we spent the whole day in Lanciano we had already visited a lot of churches but we could not visit all of them. The very last church I wanted to visit had a rather intriguing name – Chiesa del Purgatorio or the church of the Purgatory. I’d never met a church with such a strange name before and I vividly imagined scenes from the Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. How could I miss such a chance?! Luckily the church was situated near the main square a few steps from the Sanctuary of Eucharistic Miracle. I imagined that the church’s interior would be gloomy and even sinister as the Vatican’s “Last Judgment”. But nothing of the kind. The beautiful interior was light and baroque. When we entered the church we saw a big brass font standing near the altar. Definitely a christening was to take place in the Purgatory. John’s wish was fulfilled!
There were few young people in the church. They gathered round a young mother with a child. We sat in the last row of benches in order not to disturb the sacrament of christening. My friends left their bags and went out for a moment.
A very young and tall priest entered quickly from a side door. He was dressed in a simple black garment with a white stole. He heartily greeted the parents and guests and started the ceremony. To my great confusion all of them directed to the back rows and I found myself just in front of them. I had to escape very quickly and noiselessly to the far corner of the church. I had just moved away when John entered the church and nearly stepped into the ceremonial group. He was also very embarrassed. When he joined me we started listening to the words of the priest but understood nothing. I supposed that he spoke Latin but John rejected the idea. I asked a young woman who didn’t join the group and was standing near us what language did the priest speak. Her answer surprised us greatly. She said that he spoke Romanian. She explained that the Romanian community in Lanciano had rented the church and they were celebrating services according to the Orthodox ritual. Meanwhile the group came up to the altar in order to begin the affusion.
We left the church and were very satisfied by the fact that we had observed the whole cycle of religious celebration of the most important events of human life: birth, marriage and death.