SANT’ANTONIO – TRADIZIONE, STORIA, ARTE E MUSICA

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SABATO 19 E DOMENICA 20 GENNAIO 2019

EREMO DI SANT’ALBERTO DI BUTRIO (PONTE NIZZA, PV)

Una tradizione che attraverso i secoli giunge viva fino a noi. Sabato 19 e domenica 20 gennaio, pochi giorni dopo la ricorrenza di Sant’Antonio, all’Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio (Pavia) si celebra il protettore degli animali e delle arti contadine con un ricco calendario di appuntamenti.

La manifestazione, coordinata dall’Associazione Culturale Il Mondo di TELS di Pavia, è giunta ormai alla quarta edizione e quest’anno raddoppia, proponendo attività nell’arco di due giornate.

Il programma prevede:

SABATO 19 GENNAIO

ore 15:00 ritrovo presso la strada del Campo Sportivo di San Ponzo (Ponte Nizza) e passeggiata lenta dedicata all’osservazione dell’ambiente ed alle prime avvisaglie del risveglio della natura – a cura di Volo di Rondine (costo 5 euro a persona) – PRENOTAZIONE RICHIESTA: ilmondoditels@gmail.com

ore 17:30 falò con musica tradizionale oltrepadana per mantenere il simbolo rituale del fuoco.

Al termine per chi lo desiderasse Aperitivo Oltrepò a base di specialità locali (costo aperitivo: 5 euro a persona)

DOMENICA 20 GENNAIO

ore 10:00 ritrovo presso il piazzale dell’Eremo e passeggiata naturalistica a tema seguita da visita guidata alla cappella di Sant’Antonio Abate all’interno dell’eremo – a cura di Calyx (costo 5 euro a persona) PRENOTAZIONE RICHIESTA: ilmondoditels@gmail.com

alle 11.30 si illustreranno gli affreschi dell’eremo e la misteriosa tomba del re mentre alle 13.00 presso la tomba del re i membri di The Auramala Project annunceranno lo stato di avanzamento della ricerca genetica e genealogica che punta a dimostrare la validità delle ipotesi sulla morte e prima sepoltura in Oltrepò di Edoardo II, re d’Inghilterra

dalle ore 12:00 presso l’eremo, zuppa di castagne e latte della tradizione, preparata dalla chef Piera Spalla del Ristorante Selvatico, accompagnata dal vin brulé dell’Azienda Agricola Montelio (degustazione gratuita); possibilità di acquisto di altri prodotti del territorio con un mercatino di produttori locali

ore 14:30 nel Salone dell’Eremo

Il restauro degli affreschi di Sant’Alberto per l’arte, la storia e la tradizione. Una vicenda travagliata, un futuro possibile?”

Incontro di Elena Corbellini con esperti del settore e storici locali.

Interverranno:

Donatella Gabba (“Gabbantichità” Tortona)

Cristiana Cattaneo (Osservatorio Astronomico Ca’ del Monte)

Elisa Pianetta (Associazione Spino Fiorito)

ore 16:00 sul piazzale benedizione degli animali (gli amici a quattro zampe sono i benvenuti)

ore 16:30 messa solenne, nel 55mo anniversario della morte di frate Ave Maria

NON OCCORRE PRENOTAZIONE AD ECCEZIONE DELLE ATTIVITÀ DI CAMMINATA (i percorsi sono semplici senza difficoltà, ma si richiede uso di scarpe da trekking o con suola non liscia).

IN CASO DI MALTEMPO L’EVENTO NON SARÀ ANNULLATO MA POTRÀ SUBIRE LEGGERE MODIFICHE

Per info

Il Mondo di TELS: 3451228130 – ilmondoditels@gmail.com

Si ringraziano:

Don Agostino e i monaci dell’Eremo di Sant’Alberto di Butrio, Elena Corbellini, Piera Selvatico e Albergo Ristorante Selvatico, Caterina e Giovanna Brazzola e l’Azienda Agricola Montelio, Caseificio Cavanna, Salumeria Ceci, Calyx, Volo di Rondine, Azienda Agricola Oranami, Azienda Agricola Lino Verardo, Azienda Agricola Fabio Birilli, Azienda Agricola Valle Nizza di Aldo Agosti, Comuni di Ponte Nizza e Val di Nizza, Associazione Amici di Poggio Ferrato, Associazione Spino Fiorito, Associazione Varzi Viva, Alchemia Verde, Osservatorio Astronomico Ca’ del Monte, IOLAS, Park Hotel Salice Terme, Castello di Varzi, Gabbantichità Tortona, Associazione Culturale Il Mondo di TELS

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Kathryn Warner in Pavia to debate the Fieschi Letter with the Auramala Project researchers

Today we interrupt our series of posts on Manuele Fieschi to tell you about an important event that took place in Pavia last Wednesday, when Kathryn Warner, British historian and biographer of King Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France, was with us in Pavia. We held an accademic debate on the Fieschi Letter and in general the hypothesis of the survival of King Edward II at the Biblioteca Universitaria of Pavia. Present were members of the Auramala Project team, and a number of history professors of the University of Pavia, as well as the general public. Professor Renata Crotti, teacher of Medieval History at the University of Pavia, moderated the event and contributed to the debate.

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Kathryn speaking about Edward II, and Ivan translating. Kathryn’s new book ‘Isabella of France, the Rebel Queen’ can be seen on the table.

Elena Corbellini read aloud her new transcription of the Fieschi Letter in Latin, and Mario Traxino read aloud the Italian translation. With his Genoese accent, it really seemed that Manuele Fieschi had entered the room!

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Elena Corbellini reading directly from the Fieschi Letter during the debate.

Line by line we deconstructed the Fieschi Letter, relying on Kathryn Warner’s encyclopaedic knowledge of 14th century England for the first part of the story, dealing with Edward’s overthrow and imprisonment in England, and then more and more on Auramala Project research as Edward’s steps take him towards Italy.

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On the left, Elena Giacomotti, president of Cultural Association Il Mondo di Tels, of which the Auramal Project is a part. Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher, points out medieval vocabulary to Lorena Gavazzoni, who acted as Kathryn Warner’s interpreter for the day, while Ivan adjusts the display focus.

Line by line, we dissected the Feischi Letter and other evidence for Edward’s survival, such as the Melton Letter, for no less than three exhausting hours. Other university professors and academics present included Prof. Ezio Barbieri, diplomatist, Prof. Luisa Erba, historian, and Prof. Italo Cammarata, historian.

Kathryn and Ivan and Crotti
Kathryn Warner, Ivan Fowler and Prof. Renata Crotti, answering questions from the audience.

Ironically, even after three hours of debate we still hadn’t managed to debate absolutely everything… But we did make a video of the event, and we will post snippets of the most interesting bits over the coming weeks, so that our followers online can be a part of the debate, too.

 

 

 

People who are re-writing a page of history

Vai all’italiano

Honouring contributors to the Auramala Project

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Four generations of the Auramala Project at Sant’Alberto di Butrio, in the King’s Valley (Staffora Valley, Province of Pavia, Italy). Had all the people who have contributed to the Project been present, the group would have been four times the size!

Over the next few days I will be publishing a series of posts listing the many people who have contributed to the Auramala Project with their knowledge, expertise, and above all time. It’s very important for us to acknowledge their contributions, because it is fundamental to understand that the Auramala Project is a team effort, led by the Cultural Association ‘The World of Tels, based in Pavia, Italy, but involving people from different countries on different continents.

Today we can begin with people who have contributed to the historical side of the research:

Our two star contributors, who have literally read thousands of pages of archival material, in medieval handwriting, mostly in Latin, and have drawn exciting conclusions from them, are:

Elena Corbellini
Stefano Castagneto

Our constant and invaluable guide in all things relating to the Fieschi family is:

Mario Traxino

A highly significant contribution in the early days of research, orienting our quest for documents, was made by:

Luciano Maffi

Since then, the well-known English historians

Ian Mortimer
Kathryn Warner

have contributed with comments, ideas and criticism. Ian is always extremely willing to lend a hand, and replies instantly to queries and theories. Kathryn continues to play her part, especially by comparing tidbits of information we find with her vast, encyclopedic knowledge of King Edward II and of England and France in his day.

Others who have contributed to the historical research include:

In Italy
MariaRosa Gatti
Elena Giacomotti
Alice Galbiati
Don Vincenzo of Sant’Alberto di Butrio
Brother Ivan and the other friars of Sant’Alberto di Butrio, Order of Don Orione
Simonetta Castronovo of the Museums of Palazzo Madama, Turin
Annamaria Soligno
Claudia Zanocchi Soligno
Andrea Giacomotti
nonna Gina Calissano
Anna Corbi
Obizzo and Currado Malaspina of Bobbio
Monica Masanta
Luigi Panigazzi
Associazione Spino Fiorito
Giovanna Brazzola
Piera Spalla

In England
Sue and Christopher Gordon
Christopher and Liisa Springham
Steve and Sonia O’Hehir
Enrica and Timothy Biasi
Kevin McKenzie

In Australia
Patrick Ball of the University of Tasmania

The above list does not inlcude a large number of members of staff of archives, museums and other institutions who assisted our research, as part of their every-day work. This list is ever growing, and soon I will publish similar lists for the other areas of the research, and a fixed page to keep this important aspect of the Project up to date!

Kathryn Warner in Italy for King Edward II

The Auramala Project recently had the very great pleasure of hosting Kathryn Warner, distinguished Edward II biographer, in Pavia. Kathryn was in Italy for a week in late September (see Kathryn Warner’s own posts on the subject here). She first visited Vercelli and Turin with Gianna Baucero and Associazione Chesterton of Vercelli, the city of which Manuele Fieschi became bishop. On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19th, Kathryn gave a hugely successful and well received talk at the Seminar of Vercelli, in the presence of the current Archbishop, Marco Arnolfo. (Since I’m terrible at taking photos, most of those that follow come directly from the Associazione Chesterton page!)

Kathryn Warner (centre) with Archbishop Marco Arnolfo and Gianna Baucero of Associazione Chesterton

We then met Kathryn at – where else? – Sant’Alberto di Butrio, the abbey where, according to Manuele Fieschi’s celebrated letter, Edward II lived out his days in prayer and contemplation. It was an extremely moving moment to meet Kathryn there.

 Me meeting Kathryn in front of the tomb at Sant’Alberto di Butrio, said to be that of Edward II.

From left to right, myself, Gianna Baucero and Kathryn Warner.

Kathryn stayed in Pavia for four days, visiting the sites and, most importantly, discussing the evidence for and against the story told in the Fieschi Letter. The biggest day on the agenda was Tuesday 22nd, when we had a very important focus group that lasted three hours in which Fieschi expert Mario Traxino, Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini, Kathryn Warner and I all analysed in depth the documents and evidence brought to light so far by the Auramala Project, and our conclusions thus far. Kathryn was extremely informative and encouraging, and we feel that our research has proven quite worthy to stand beside other contributions on the same subject. Of course, what we have managed to publish so far on this blog is just a fraction of the total work done so far!

After the focus group, Kathryn gave a talk in the Salone Teresiano of the University Library of Pavia. Kathryn was introduced and presented to Pavia’s university-oriented public by Professor Renata Crotti, renowned historian of the University of Pavia. It was a memorable occasion, and as usual with Pavian audiences, question time went on for more than forty minutes. When the library closed, debate shifted to Loft 10, in Piazza Cavagneria, where it continued in English, French and German, thanks to Kathryn’s formidable linguistic skills.

From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti
From left to right, me, Kathryn and Professor Renata Crotti

The day after, Wednesday 23rd, Kathryn and I headed off to Genoa in the early morning for a visit to the archives of the archdiocese of Genoa. Numerous testaments left by the Fieschi Family are to be found there, but we were looking in particular for that of Manuele Fieschi’s nephew, Papiniano. Why? Well, it would take a long time to explain, so I’ll leave that for another post, but it’s a fascinating story.

At one point, I was just about to pass over a sheaf of documents as irrelevant to the search when Kathryn spotted the name of Papiniano, and we thankfully photographed them. Indeed, those were the very documents that revealed to us the name of the notary among whose documents we must now search.

Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.
Kathryn and I looking at ancient documents in the Genoa cathedral archive.

It was an interesting experience to work with Kathryn for a couple of days on the nitty gritty of history. I was hugely impressed by a number of qualities, that I think the best historians should have. For example, apart from her linguistic skills and flexibility, she is very swift in looking at things analytically and adjusting to circumstances. The Genoese documents we looked at had this oddity: the number ‘3’ was always written back to front, making it look more like the letter ‘E’. It took Kathryn about half a second to spot this and get her eye in, as we scanned document after document. She sought, and very quickly found, the key to the ordering of documents that at first glance seemed put together without rhyme or reason, and was able to dismiss a whole bundle as useless pretty early on. Yes, we did check every single page of it, just to be on the safe side, anyway, but we knew there was no point. Kathryn is also distinguished by her extreme integrity: if it isn’t written in a trustworthy contemporary source, it just didn’t happen. She never lets a ‘might-have’ become a ‘must-have’, and then become a ‘fact’, and she will not tolerate it when other historians do. Either there is a source, or there is not. If there is not, it is hypothesis, and must be called hypothesis. And when it comes to original documents, I can tell you that Kathryn is fast working, efficient, and devastatingly good at finding them, reading them and interpreting them.

Sadly, Kathryn went back home the next day, but we are sure she will come again, and we can’t wait for it! In the meantime, she is giving us a helping hand with some parts of the research, in particular genealogy and the search for Edward II’s descendants, and there will be more on her extremely exciting findings in future posts!

From everybody here at the Auramala Project, a huge thank you to Kathryn for your visit!

Ivan Fowler.

Lettera di Edoardo II ai Lombardi del XXI secolo

Sua Maestà Edoardo II d’Inghilterra, ai Lombardi del XXI secolo, salvete!

È passato tanto tempo da quando vi rivolsi parole l’ultima volta, ancora in vita, ospite vostro tra viti, boschi, monti e pascoli in Oltrepò Pavese. Quasi settecento anni di guerra, pace, carestia ed abbondanza. Finora, tuttavia, nessuna crisi nella Fortuna capricciosa mi ha mosso a scrivere a voi, poiché vi ho sempre visti lesti, intelligenti, con lo sguardo sempre fisso sul futuro all’orizzonte; la Lombardia ha fatto grandi progressi di secolo in secolo. Che cosa mai, al giorno di oggi, può turbarmi tanto da obbligarmi a comporre questa epistola?

La puzza di fumo.

Ne so qualcosa, io. Due volte in vita fui svegliato di notte dalla puzza di fumo, per scampare ad incendi rovinosi che distrussero le mie residenze, una volta presi in braccio la mia regina e la portai fuori dall’edificio infiammato, salvandola, al costo di severe ustioni. Ora, di nuovo sento fumo e di nuovo mi urge azione. Un fumo che non ho mai sentito prima. Conosco bene l’odore dei camini dell’Oltrepò, dolce di faggio, castagno, ciliegio, melo, vite… Ma questo fumo che rischia ora di salire, non è qualcosa che esiste in natura. Mi dicono che a Retorbido, quel grazioso borgo che conoscevo una volta, presto bruceranno ‘pneumatici’. Questi sarebbero oggetti “sintetici”, fatti di una gomma nera, strana, dura e puzzolente, creati in grandi fabbriche dal petrolio, rimanenze di animali e piante marine, che riposarono nella roccia più secoli di quanti la mente umana non possa immaginare.

A differenza della legna bruciata nei camini, la vita all’origine del petrolio non ricrescerà nella primavera. I rami e foglie verdi d’Aprile e Maggio riprendono dall’aria ciò che il fuoco delle stufe aveva rilasciato durante l’inverno. A questi “pneumatici”, invece, i cicli delle stagioni sono estranei. Il loro fumo appesantirà l’aria sempre di più, di anno in anno, e cadrà con la pioggia sui campi. O Lombardi del XXI secolo, non lasciate che il vino dei vostri figli nasca dai campi inquinati da queste ceneri amare! Fate che non mangino catrame domani nelle ciliegie e nelle mele così squisite oggi! Ricordatevi altresì che dai campi, l’acqua dell’Oltrepò entrerà nei ruscelli, nello Staffora e infine nel Po, fonte di irrigazione per i campi dell’intera pianura. Ai miei tempi scandalizzavo i nobili divertendomi a nuotare e remare per i fiumi. O Lombardi del XXI secolo, che questo diletto non sia negato ai vostri figli!

E, forse più di ogni cosa, non siate la prima generazione di Lombardi, da quando io giunsi in Italia, a guardare indietro e non in avanti. I sostenitori di questo “inceneritore” dicono che porterà lavoro e ricchezza. Forse gli converrebbe indossore un paio di quegli “occhiali” che alcuni di voi portano oggi, per vedere meglio. La vostra vera ricchezza, è quella più antica, che fa parte di voi, senza che nemmeno ci pensiate: la vostra ospitalità eccellente, il vostro cuore, e le vostre terre bellissime. Così come un tempo fui accolto da voi, altri pellegrini possono, vogliono venire. Non certo per respirare fumo innaturale, ma per vivere la vostra accoglienza, e le vostre terre incantevoli. Se la vostra ospitalità esiste, come testimonio io, da sempre, e non ha mai avvelenato né acqua né terra né aria, potrà durare per sempre. E creare lavoro per sempre. Ricchezza per sempre. Vi prego, dirigete nuovamente lo sguardo al futuro, all’orizzonte. Fermate quest’obbrobrio che vogliono far nascere a Retorbido. Cammino con voi che manifestate contro, oggi, nello spirito. Avanti!

Vostro amico e servitore, Edoardo.

Manifestazione no inceneritore 24 maggio 2015
Manifestazione no inceneritore 24 maggio 2015

A very important day for The Auramala Project at Sant’Alberto di Butrio

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Abbey of Sant’Alberto di Butrio, January 18th 2015, the Sunday following Saint Anthony’s Day

After perhaps one hundred years of service, the old sign commemorating the Italian tomb of King Edward was replaced by a new information plate recording the journey of Edward II to Italy, and acknowledging his ‘other tomb’ in Gloucester Cathedral, England. Including details from recent research by Ian Mortimer and the Auramala Project, the new plate updates information on the tomb and the story of King Edward II to the present state of knowledge, provides a map of the ex-King’s odyssey across Europe, and is in both English and Italian, so foreigners arriving for the first time in this breathtaking sacred place can understand what they are seeing.

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To celebrate the event, Piera Selvatico, renowned local chef, cooked the traditional chestnut and milk soup of Saint Anthony’s day, a recipe that Edward II most likely ate on that day in his own time. It was made with the milk of local Varzi cows, a breed that descends from the ‘blond cows’ introduced by the ancient Longobards to the territory of Lombardy, around their capital city, Pavia. The milk, supplied by Lino Verardo, a local farmer, arrived in the morning still warm from the cows’ udders. The soup, made with chestnuts from the Staffora Valley, was served in dishes made of hard bread, just as in medieval times. It was absolutely delicious – and then we ate the dishes, too! Montelio winery provided the exceptional mulled wine, following a medieval Lombard recipe (which includes diced dates, to round off the meal.

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Elena Corbellini, Auramala Project researcher, read aloud extracts from the records of the Abbey demonstrating how chestnuts were the most important produce of Sant’Alberto di Butrio in medieval times. Claudia Zanocchi Soligno read aloud a dialect poem from her book Fili d’Erba, about the ‘symphony’ of animal calls that greet farmers when they open the barn door every morning – an appropriate choice, as the Mass of Saint Anthony is when farmers bring their animals to be blessed, and indeed many animals joined us in the cloister of the abbey, including pastor Don Vincenzo’s lovely hound, Sally. Finally, a local community choir ‘Le Voci di Fego’, directed by Carlo Scotti, sang ancient folk songs from the area, the closest we can come today to the melodies that echoed about the mountains when Edward II was a hermit here.
When the new information plate was unveiled, Voci di Fego (and myself) gustily sang out ‘God Save the King’, and one chorister was heard to remark ‘This is where, God did save the King!’

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Abbazia di Sant’Alberto di Butrio, 18 Gennaio, 2015, all’indomani del giorno di Sant’Antonio.

Dopo circa cent’anni di servizio, la vecchia targa celebrativa sulla tomba italiana di Re Edoardo II d’Inghilterra è stata sostituita. La nuova targa racconta il viaggio di Edoardo II alla volta dell’Italia, e fa cenno alla sua “altra tomba”, quella nella Cattedrale di Gloucester, in Inghilterra. Comprende dettagli rivelati dalle recenti ricerche di Ian Mortimer e The Auramala Project, aggiornando la storia di Edoardo II allo stato attuale di conoscenza. Tutte le informazioni su questa nuova targa sono in italiano e in inglese: qualunque sia la loro provenienza, pellegrini e visitatori che arrivano per la prima volta sulla terrazza panoramica dell’Abbazia possono così conoscere la storia del Re.

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Per celebrare l’evento Piera Selvatico, rinomata chef dell’omonimo ristorante di Rivanazzano Terme, ha preparato la zuppa di castagne cotte nel latte, come vuole la tradizione legata al culto di Sant’Antonio – una ricetta che, con ogni probabilità, Edoardo II stesso assaporò durante la sua permanenza in Oltrepò. Il latte proveniva da vacche varzesi locali, una razza che discende dalle ‘vacche bionde’ portate dai Longobardi nelle terre lombarde attorno alla loro antica capitale, Pavia, ed è stato offerto da Lino Verardo dell’omonima azienda agricola della Valle Staffora. La zuppa, fatta con castagne della valle, è stata servita in rustiche cialde di pane biscottato, proprio come avveniva nel medioevo. Gli amici della Cantina Montelio hanno scaldato l’atmosfera con un eccezionale vin brulé preparato seguendo una ricetta medievale comprendente, tra altri ingredienti, spezie e datteri tritati.

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Elena Corbellini, ricercatrice di The Auramala Project, ha letto estratti dei registri dell’Abbazia che dimostrano come le castagne rappresentavano una delle maggiori ricchezze dell’eremo nel medioevo. Claudia Zanocchi Soligno ha poi recitato una poesia in dialetto locale tratta dal suo libro “Fili d’Erba”, che racconta la ‘sinfonia’ dei versi degli animali e dell’armonia degli elementi naturali. Una scelta appropriata, dato che alla Messa di Sant’Antonio si usa portare gli animali per la benedizione. A chiusura dell’evento, il coro locale “Le Voci di Fego” diretto da Carlo Scotti ha cantato antiche melodie della valle – le armonie più vicine a quelle udite da Edoardo II che possiamo conoscere.
Le Voci di Fego hanno infine accompagnato il momento dell’inaugurazione della targa sulle note di “God Save the King” – pare che qualcuno abbia commentato “Ecco, proprio qui Dio salvò il Re!”

Un grazie va al Sindaco e a tutta l’Amministrazione Comunale di Ponte Nizza.

Grazie inoltre a tutti i presenti, ai coraggiosi che hanno affrontato il gelido pomeriggio invernale per condividere con noi questo momento così importante.

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The Three Kings and the King Who Lived

“…’na storia che Nadòol e i Remàg/Ogni aan i la porta int’e ca,/par pudé, con tanta magìa/da n’fòla moi dasmingò.” – Claudia Zanocchi Soligno

“…A story that the Nativity and the Three Kings/Each year bring to our homes,/With much magic, we can/Be sure we’ll never forget.” – Claudia Zanocchi Soligno

In Christian tradition, today, January 6th, is the day in which the Magi, or the Three Kings, arrived from the orient to worship baby Jesus in Bethlehem, an event known as the Adoration of the Magi. Though largely forgotten in the English speaking world, today is still a major festivity in many Catholic countries, including Italy. In fact, I am on holiday today, the last day of peace before the year begins in earnest. My dear friend Claudia Zanocchi Soligno lives in Pizzocorno in the Staffora Valley, just a short walk from the Abbey of Sant’Alberto di Butrio. She has recently published an exquisite book of poems and memoirs, Fili d’Erba, many of which are in the local dialect, the descendant of the language Edward II would have heard spoken by the people there. In one of these dialect poems she eloquently recalls Christmas and the Epiphany together, the Nativity and the Three Kings, bringing magic to people’s homes. Edward II was a pious, deeply religious man, and would have celebrated the Adoration of the Magi every year on this day with great feeling. But there is another, personal, connection between the Three Kings and Edward II. At around the time of the birth of his son and heir, Edward (who became King Edward III) a prophecy known as the Prophecy of the Six Kings started circulating in England. (1) The prophecy foretold that Edward III would be buried alongside the relics of the Three Kings. The shrine containing these mystic relics is in Cologne, and in fact the Fieschi Letter states that Edward II visited this shrine during the long journey that led him, finally, to the Staffora Valley. Perhaps this was because he was aware of the prophecy, and desired to pay his respects to the place where, he imagined, his son would one day lie buried.

The shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral
The shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral

When he finally found himself in the Staffora Valley, how might Edward II have celebrated on this day? Piera Spalla Selvatico, another friend from the valley and a renowned chef who has dedicated years of research to medieval cuisine and traditions, wrote to me that ‘when I was little, on the eve of the Epiphany we would put a shoe on the window of the ground floor of home so that the Three Kings could easily place their gifts there, as they would pass by during the night, but were up high, as they rode camels.‘ You can see that the Epiphany was a day in which children would receive gifts, just like Christmas. In fact, still today in Italy children eagerly await not the passage of the Three Kings, but of a witch known as the ‘Befana’. Piera continues ‘Back then the cult of the Three Kings was stronger than the Befana. The legend says that when Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, conquered Milan in 1162, he took the relics of the Three Kings from the Church of Sant’Eustorgio, where they had been taken from Constantinople by soldiers coming home from the crusades. On their original journy to Milan, the relics stopped in Voghera, where an abbey that no longer exists was dedicated to them. When Barbarossa removed them from Milan they were first taken to Pavia, and then in 1164 to Colgne, by the Archbishop Rainaldo. There are many villages called ‘Tre Re’ (Three Kings) in their honour. 

The Adoration of the Magi, a sculpture at the magnificent Renaissance monastery, the Certosa di Pavia.
The Adoration of the Magi, a sculpture at the magnificent Renaissance monastery, the Certosa di Pavia.

Piera has also published a book of local recipes for traditional festivities called Ricettario delle Feste in Valle Staffora (LedMediaLab Editore) in which we find an intriguing hint as to what Edward II may have eaten today: the traditional pasta sauce of the Epiphany, ajà. The recipe calls for 30 walnut halves, bread soaked in milk, 4 cloves of garlic, 1oo grams of butter, two tablespoons fo curd, and rock salt. The garlic and the walnut halves are ground together in a mortar, and then mixed with the soaked bread, curd and salt. This simple but rich and delicious sauce can accompany pasta, such as lasagnette. Since it is a very ancient recipe – a version of it was written down by Martino da Como in the year 1400, so it was undoubtedly already a part of the Lombard culinary tradition at the time – and uses ingredients that were readily available in the Staffora Valley in the day of Edward II, there is no reason to suppose he did not enjoy some pasta with ajà upon this day.

(1) Taylor, Rupert, The Political Prophecy in England, New York, 1911, pp 48-52 and Appendix i. See also Ormrod, Mark, Edward III, 2012, Yale University Press, pp 97-98, and Mortimer, Ian, The Perfect King, London, 2010, pp 19-20.

From the King’s Valley to Turin

Announcing a Literary Soirée at the historical Caffè Platti, Turin, to tell the story of the mysterious, precious candlesticks of Palazzo Madama, and King Edward II in Italy

Cafè Platti, Turin, 6 PM, Thursday 2 October, 2014

Two extraordinary medieval candlestick were donated to the Museum of Palazzo Madama, Turin, in the year 1876. (1) A gentleman collector from Piedmont, Count De-Roussi de Sales, had bought the candlesticks from the Abbey of Sant’Alberto of Butrio – where King Edward II is said to have lived in the 1330s. These beautiful and precious works of art were created by master crafstmen of Limoges, in the Duchy of Acquitaine, France, in the 13th century. They are elegant and refined, unique examples of ornately enameled copper. But how, when, and above all why did they come to the Abbey of Sant’Alberto of Butrio?

The ‘elegantissimo’ Caffè Platti, one of Turin’s favourite historical venues for Literary Soirées

It has long been thought that there must be a connection between these candlesticks and the (supposed) presence of King Edward II at the Abbey in the 14th century. (2)

Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini examined archival documents tracked down with the help of historian Doctor Luciano Maffi in the Cathedral Archive of the Diocese of Tortona. After reading through literally hundreds of pages of handwritten inventories scrawled in a mix of archaic Italian and Latin, Corbellini was able to reconstruct the presence of these candlesticks at the Abbey of Sant’Alberto di Butrio through the centuries.

We then took these hard-won documents to the present day curator and restorer of the medieval enamels collection at the Museum of Palazzo Madama, Doctor Simonetta Castronovo. We told her the remarkable story of the Fieschi Letter, and why an increasing number of academics believe Edward II was present in the Staffora Valley. We asked her a simple question: do you think there may be a connection between these candlesticks and King Edward II?

One word is enough to describe her answer: inspiring.

The spectacular Palazzo Madama, in the centre of Turin. The candlesticks of Sant’Alberto have been here, in the Civic Museum of Ancient Art, since 1876.

In due course, Professor Corbellini’s work will be published in detail on this blog, under the category Phase 2 (The Hunt for the King). But if you want a sneak preview of what it has revealed, why not join us at Cafè Platti on 2 October, at 6 PM, for a literary soirée, a delicious aperitivo featuring the finest bubbly wines from the Oltrepò wine hills surrounding Sant’Alberto of Butrio, and one of history’s most intriguing mysteries?

  1. The donation was recorded by the curator of the Museum, Doctor Bartolomeo Gastaldi. Personal communication, Angelo Alberto Piatti, biographer of Bartolomeo Gastaldi.
  2. The supposed connection was first hinted at in Legé, Vincenzo, ‘Sant’Alberto Abate: Fondatore del monastero di Butrio e il suo Culto’, Tortona, 1901, to be enthusiastically acclaimed as a near certainty in Benedetti, Anna, ‘Edoardo II d’Inghilterra a Sant’Alberto di Butrio’, Palermo, 1924. It has since been integrated into local folklore surrounding the ‘king in the valley’.

Introducing a new member of the Auramala Project team!

I’m very proud to introduce to our followers a new member of the team. Enrica Biasi, who hails from Durham in the UK, has come to spend a year with us here in Pavia, and lend a hand with the hard work of the research project. She’s already proved a valuable asset to the Project, and we’re all sure she will contribute an enormous amount over the next year. Here is what she has to say about herself:

 

Hello, I’m Enrica, and I will be working with the Auramala Project for the next 10 months. After recently graduating from the University of Oxford with a BA in History, I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to work on the project, to find out whether there is any more compelling evidence to support the theory that Edward II did not die in Berkely Castle in 1327. As an avid fan of detective stories and mysteries, I hope to help chase down as many possible lines of enquiry and to get closer to some concrete certainties.

I’ll be starting by continuing to share the geneological research of Craig L. Foster, who is tracing Eleanor of Castille’s female descendants, adding as much detail as I can find to flesh out their personalities. Through this, I want to encourage interest in the history of these often obscure women, as well as gaining as much information as possible relevant to the Project, aiming for reliability, thoroughness, and verifiability. I’m looking forward to sharing my discoveries with you!

Enrica Biasi

 

Enrica’s first post will shortly be online!

Auramala book trailer shortlisted for the Antonello Prize

This week at the Turin International Book Fair the book trailer Auramala  is a finalist for the Antonello Prize for the Best Book Trailer. It is up against a daunting field of short films, many by large and established publishing houses like Mondadori and Feltrinelli, not to mention rock star Ligabue. The book trailer was produced by my old friend Giacomo Sardelli, director of the chilling short film The Ambulance and Further Up Yonder, which caused a sensation on the web back in December 2012 with its breathtaking footage from the International Space Station.

To celebrate being nominated for this award in such a prestigious event, here is a guest post by Giacomo Sardelli, on the making of the trailer. Well done Giacomo, once again your stylish work is being recognized!

 

How to make a book trailer

Auramala

Auramala is a grand medieval adventure written by my Australian friend Ivan Fowler. It tells the story of two secret agents in the year 1338, who are on the traces of a mysterious king, whose destiny seems to contradict accepted history. After reading the book I decided that it deserved a book trailer with a cinematic touch, and this is the result.

 

The book trailer, the locations and the ammonite

Right from the start I wanted the book trailer to have a cinematographic look. Generally, book trailers favour animation and graphics over live action footage. Auramala has the good fortune of being set in a landscape that lends itself to filming, so I decided to base the book trailer of Auramala on two key elements: the location and, to hold the story together, the ammonite.

 

The Location

Ivan has lived in Pavia for years, and has acquired profound knowledge of the the city and its Province, which he loves. The pages of Auramala betray his passion for the Apennines of Pavia, the Oltrepò Pavese, which is as much a protagonist of the book as the human characters. For this reason I inserted into the shooting list some time-lapse sequences taken in the exact location of the book, a region that is still wild enough to allow for fields of view where there are no modern or non-medieval elements whatsoever.

Oramala Castle, in one of the time-lapse sequences for the trailer. For this take I set up an f/20 aperture, with a 1/50 and ISO 400 shutter. Shots were taken every 10 seconds to cover the entire duration of the sunset in 250 frames (in editing terms, 10 seconds of footage at 25fps).
Oramala Castle, in one of the time-lapse sequences for the trailer. For this take I set up an f/20 aperture, with a 1/50 and ISO 400 shutter. Shots were taken every 10 seconds to cover the entire duration of the sunset in 250 frames (in editing terms, 10 seconds of footage at 25fps).

To plan the timing of the shoots, above all for the time-lapse sequence, which can literally take hours, I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a neat, free app for PC and Mac, and available for Android and iOS for a fee. TPE allows you to find out exactly what time the sun rises or sets, and on which point of a horizon. An image is worth a thousand words:

Oramala Castle with the direction of the sun and of the moon at sunrise and at sunset.
Oramala Castle with the direction of the sun and of the moon at sunrise and at sunset.

Knowing the timing and direction of the sunset, I set up the shoot, deciding on the right angle as soon as I arrived on the spot. I shot the video footage in the surrounding areas when the light was not yet right for the time-lapse sequence, and got back to the spot where I was going to film the sunset just in time to set up the tripod.

 

Remote controlled slider For the tracking time-lapse shot I used a remote controlled slider that I finished constructing myself just the month before. It’s a bit of an ad hoc, hand-made job, but it does exactly what it’s intended to do, just right. The two motors allow it to slide at a normal speed for a regular tracking shot, but also ultra-slow for time-lapse. I still have to measure it exactly, but roughly speaking it will do a metre in 10-15 minutes on slowest speed. Perfect for a time-lapse sequence. Here is a photo taken with a smartphone on the day of the trial: image

The Ammonite

The second element I used is the ammonite, which plays a key role in Auramala, so it couldn’t be missing from trailer. It poses a question in viewers’ minds that can be answered by reading the book. The ammonite is in the hand of a character who, in 1338, is fleeing through the woods, and who has to hide it somewhere before his pursuers catch up with him. The sound of bells guides him to the Abbey of Sant’Alberto, where he finds a niche in which to conceal it. For these shots I therefore needed a brick-work niche, and the possibility to age it by 600 years, until the present, when the detective in the trailer discovers the ammonite inside it. I created the niche so as to have total freedom in positioning the camera, and so as to be able to modify it as I pleased. Some moss and dust (from Ivan’s garden and firewood-pile respectively) re-created a 600-year journey through time. Here is the result, the final shot and the mini set. image

So, these are the simple techniques I used to achieve the result I wanted. If you have any questions about any other part of the video, I’ll be happy to answer.

 

Giacomo Sardelli, author of the blog Making Movies, studies Film and New Media at The Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, “New Academy of Fine Arts”, or NABA, in Milan. After his first-aid adventures with The Ambulance and trip into outer space with the world-recognized Further Up Yonder, he is now working on a documentary in his experiences with a Ugandan tribe, the Karimojong. In the meantime, he has travelled backwards in time ot 1338 with an Australian story teller in search of King Edward II of England, and much else besides.