web designer, writer, editor and ceremonialist

A weeping madonna

24 August 2005

Syracuse madonnaSet out early for Syracuse yesterday. First called into Pozzallo to pay for the ferry to Malta tomorrow. I must admit that I gulped when I saw the size of the catamaran that runs the regular ferry service – it is very small! The journey only takes an hour and a half; apparently this is the fastest ferry in the world. Better check that I have some seasickness tablets!

Santuario della Madonna delle LacrimeAt Syracuse I couldn’t resist the sanctuary of the weeping madonna. Dubbed an official miracle by the church in the 1960s, this is an ordinary statue of the virgin which apparently wept real tears for several days in 1953. The church did get the fluid tested by a laboratory, which found that the liquid was consistent with human tears. Who knows? The locals have constructed an 800 foot high upturned ice-cream cone over her, (well, that’s what it looks like!) complete with a crypt.  Judge for yourself, left.

In the crypt I was hesitating, wondering how to get down to see interesting ruins (a sign of an earlier place of worship?) when a man came over and asked me in a sort of prayerful manner if I’d like to get down to the lower floor. I was a bit hesitant, but agreed. He set off and half-way down the stairs, took my arm, which was a bit surprising. My firm “No!” made him let go, but then he got even friendlier, so I kicked him and ran away. Should probably have gone to the Information Office and told them they had a creep hanging around but hardly anyone I’ve met in Sicily speaks any English at all. There also seems to be a great love of filling in forms, and I could imagine completing half a dozen, in triplicate, and maybe trying to explain it all to the local police.

GoddessgorgonA bit shaken, I went off towards the archeological park, to see the Greek ruins, but my stomach was getting the better of me and I already felt too hot – have got a bit burned, despite taking care. So I decided to leave the ruins until a cooler time of day and visit the Archeological Museum, which was fascinating. Full of images of Demeter and Kore, there must have been a hundred of them to every warrior or god. Photographs not allowed, again, but I got a few sneaky ones …. I was particularly struck by this lovely Goddess on the left (can you see the little person inside her?)

Also by the Gorgon on the right. I believe she is also at the centre of the Sicilian coat-of-arms, which is apparently otherwise almost identical to the one of the Isle of Man. I can’t remember the name of it …

This (below right) was my favourite though – I hope you can see it. A beautifully tender Mother Goddess, nursing two infants. She was in a roped off area but I ducked under it, I was so thrilled by her ….

Mother goddessReturning to the car, realized to my horror that I’d left the lights on full after going through a tunnel earlier. In the bright sunlight you don’t notice. Of course, the battery was flat. I went to find the car-park attendant to see if he had any jump leads. An elaborate mime and explanation in Spanish, Latin and a bit of French were watched in silence, then he suddenly brightened and started to mouth something. I realised that he couldn’t hear or speak properly, and just wanted me to pay for the parking.

He finally got a colleague, but they simply pushed me out of the car park and didn’t care to be worried about this mad Englishwoman. I called the AA European Helpline; they got me a breakdown truck eventually. Not that I needed one, only a push or jump leads. But forms had to be filled in, passport produced, car documents carefully noted. I had spent quite a while telling the nice Italian helpline operator all about it – thought I’d done quite well until later when I finally found the Italian dictionary and realised I told her that the battery had a small rodent in it!

Annoyed that I haven’t got to see very much yet, but stomach is demanding a rest, I’m dehydrated from sitting in a hot, dead car for a long time and quite frankly don’t want to be too far from a loo for the next few hours.