Archive for the ‘Ancient’ Tag

Source: Olive oil and the Church   Leave a comment

The following forms a chapter in John Hurley, The Tree, the Olive, the Oil in the Old and New World (1919), available in pdf form on our site. SY

From the earliest ages to the present time the olive tree, its fruit with its uses, have been carefully considered ; now brief mention should be made of olive oil as used in ecclesiastical ceremonies, both in primitive and modern times. As is generally known, the liturgical blessing of oil is very ancient. It is met with in the fourth century in the Prayer Book of Serapion and in the Apostolic Constitution, also in a Syrais document of the fifth and sixth centuries entitled Testamentum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi. The aforesaid book of Bishop Serapion (A. D. 362) contains the formula for the blessing of the oil and chrism for those who had just received baptism, which was in those days followed by confirmation in such a manner that the administration of both sacraments constituted a single ceremony. In the same book is found a separate form of blessing for the oil, of the sick, for water, and for bread. It is an invocation to Christ to give His creatures power to cure the sick, to purify the soul, to drive away impure spirits, and to wipe out sin. In the Old Testament oil was used for the consecration of priests and kings, also in all great liturgical functions, e. g. sacrifices, legal purifications, and the consecration of altars.

In the primitive church the oils to be used in the initiation of catechumens were consecrated on Holy Thursday in the Missa Chrismalis. Two different ampullae were used, one containing pure oil, the other mixed with balsam. This mixture was made by the Pope himself before the mass in the sacristy. During the mass two clerics of lesser rank stood before the altar holding the ampulla. Toward the end of the canon the faithful offered for benediction small ampullae of oil: these contained oil of the sick which the faithful were allowed to make use of themselves, but the same oil also served for extreme unction. The vessels holding it were placed on the railing surrounding the space reserved for the clergy. The deacons brought these vessels to the altar to receive the blessing of the Pope. The Pope continued the mass while the deacons returned the ampullae to the place whence they had brought them, and a certain number of bishops and priests repeated over those which had not been brought to the altar the formula pronounced by the Pope. The consecration of the large ampulla took place immediately after the communion of the Pope, before the communion of the clergy and the faithful. The deacons covered the chalice and paten while the subdeacons carried the ampullae to the archdeacon and one of his assistants. The archdeacon presented to the Pope the ampullae of perfumed oil, the Pope breathed on it three times, made the sign of the cross, and recited a prayer which bears a certain resemblance to the preface of the mass. The ampullae of pure oil was next presented to the Pope and was consecrated with less solemnity. The consecration and benediction of the Holy oil now take place on Holy Thursday at a very solemn ceremony reserved for the bishop. He blesses the oil which is to serve at the anointing of catechumens previous to baptism, next the oil with which the sick are anointed in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, finally the chrism, which is a mixture of oil and balsam, and which is used in the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The use of oil in Christian antiquity was not, as has been maintained, a medical prescription adopted by the church. In apostolic times St. James directed the priests or ancients of the community to pray for the sick man and to anoint him with oil in the name of Jesus. And shortly afterwards, probably in the second century, a gold leaf found at Beyrout in Svria, contains an exordium ‘pronounced in the dwelling of him whom I anointed.’ This is, after the text of St. James; the earliest evidence of the use of oil accompanied by formula in the administration of a sacrament. The oil of the sick might lie blessed not only by priests but also by laymen of high repute for virtue, and even by women. In the sixth century St. Monegundus on his death-bed blessed oil and salt, which were afterwards used for the sick. A similar instance is met with in the life of St. Redegund. In the West, however, the tendency was early manifested to confine the blessing of the oil of the sick to bishops only. About 730 St. Boniface ordered all priests to have recourse to the bishop. In 744 the tendency was not so pronounced in France, but the Council of Chalons, 813, imposed on priests the obligation of anointing the sick with oil blessed by the bishop. In the East the priests retained the right to consecrate the oil. The custom even became established, and has lasted to the present time, of having the oil blessed in the house of the sick person, or in the church by a priest, or, if possible, by seven priests.

During the time of the catechumenate those who were about to become Christians received one or more anointings with holy oil. The oil used on this occasion was that which had received the blessing mentioned in the Apostolic Constitution. This anointing of the catechumens is explained by the fact that they were regarded to a certain extent as being possessed by the devil until Christ should enter into them through baptism. The oil of catechumens is also used in the ordination of priests and the coronation of kings and queens.

The oil of chrism is used in the West immediately after baptism. Both in the East and West it was used very early for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Ordo Romanus shows that in Rome on Holy Thursday the archdeacon went very early to St. John Lateran, where he mixed wax and oil in a large vase, this mixture being used to make the Agnus Dei. The same document shows that in the suburban churches wax was used while Pseudo-Alcium [pseudo Alcuin?] says that both wax and oil were used.

In the Liturgy of the Nestorians and the Syrian Jacobites, the elements present at the Eucharistic Consecration have been prepared with oil. Among the Nestorians a special rubric prescribes the use of flour, salt, olive oil and water.

From the second century the custom was established of administering baptism with water specially blessed for this purpose. Nevertheless, the sacrament was valid if ordinary water was used. We are not well informed as to the nature of the consecration of this baptismal water, but it must be said that the most ancient indications and descriptions say nothing of the use of oil in this consecration. The first witness, Pseudo-Dionysius, does not go beyond the first half of the sixth century; he tells us that the bishop pours oil on the water of the fonts in the form of a cross. There is no doubt that this rite was introduced at a comparatively late period.

The maintenance of more or less numerous lamps in the churches was a source of expense which the faithful in their generosity hastened to meet by establishing a fund to purchase oil. The Council of Braga (572) decided that a third of the offerings made to the church should be used for purchasing oil for the light. The quality of oil thus consumed was greater when a lamp burned before a famous tomb or shrine, in which case it was daily distributed to pilgrims, who venerated it as a relic.

Chrism is a mixture of olives and balsam, blessed by a bishop in a special manner, and used in the administration of certain sacraments and in the performance of certain ecclesiastical functions. That chrism may serve as valid matter for the Sacrament of Confirmation it must consist of pure oil of olives and it must be blessed by a Bishop, or at least by a priest delegated by the Holy See. These two conditions are certainly necessary for validity; moreover, it is probable that there should be an admixture of balsam and that the blessing of the chrism should be special, in the sense that it ought to be different from that which is given to the oil of the sick or the oil of catechumens. If either of the last two conditions is wanting the sacrament will be doubtfully valid. To deal with the subject in a sufficiently exhaustive manner, it will be enough to touch on (1) the origin and antiquity of chrism, (2) its constituent nature, (3) its blessing, and (4) its use and symbolic significance.

(1) In its primitive meaning the word chrism, like the Greek chriona, was used to designate any and every substance that served the purpose of smearing or anointing, such as the various kinds of oils, unguents and pigments. This was its ordinary signification in profane literature, and even in the early patristic writings. Gradually, however, in the writings of the fathers at all events, the term came to be restricted to that special kind of oil that was used in religious ceremonies and functions, especially in the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation. Thus origin refers to the visible chrism in which we have all been baptized. St. Ambrose venerates in the chrism the oil of grace which makes kings and priests; and St. Cyril of Jerusalem celebrates the praises of the mystic chrism. The early councils of the church have also references to chrism as something set apart for sacred purposes and making for the sanctification of men. Thus the Council of Constantinople held in 381 and the Council of Toledo, 398. Regarding the institution of chrism, or its introduction into the sacramental and ceremonial system of the church, some theologians, among them St. Thomas and Susrex, hold that it was instituted immediately by Christ, while others contend that it is altogether of ecclesiastical origin. Eugene IV in his famous ‘Instruction for the Armenians’ asserts that chrism is the matter of the Sacrament of Confirmation, and, indeed, this opinion is so certain that it may not be denied without incurring some note of theological censure. All that the Council of Trent has defined in this connection is that they who attribute a certain spiritual and salutary efficacy to holy chrism do not in any way derogate from the respect and reverence due to the Holy Ghost.

(2) Two elements enter into the constitution of legitimate chrism, viz., olive oil and balsam. The former is indeed the predominating, as well as the principal ingredient, but the latter must be added in greater or lesser quantity, if not for reasons of validity, at all events in obedience to a grave ecclesiastical precept. Frequent reference is made in the Old Testament to the use of oil in religious ceremonies. It was employed in the coronation of kings, in the consecration of the high priests, and in the ordination of the Levites, and, indeed, it figured very prominently in the Mosaic ordinances generally, as can he abundantly gathered from Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Such being the prevailing usage of the Old Testament in adopting olive oil for religious ceremonies, it is no cause for wonder that it also came to receive under the New Dispensation a certain religious recognition and approval. The second element that enters into the constitution of genuine chrism is balsam. This is an aromatic, resinous substance that is extracted from the wood of certain trees or plants, especially those belonging to the terebinthine group or family. In the manufacture of this sweet-smelling unguent the early Greek-Christians were wont to employ as many as forty different perfumed species or essences. In the beginning of the Christian era balsam was obtained from Judea and from Arabia, but in modern times it is also produced, and in superior quality, in the West Indies. The first mention of balsam as an ingredient in the composition of chrism seems to be found in the Gregorian Sacramentary, a work belonging to the sixth century. Now, however, according to existing legislation, the additional balsam is requisite for lawful chrism, but whether it is necessary for the validity of the sacrament, assuming that chrism is the matter of confirmation, is a matter about which theologians do not agree. The modern view appears to be that it is not so required. But owing to the uncertainty mere olive oil alone would be doubtful matter and could not therefore be employed apart from very grave necessity.

(3) For proper and legitimate chrism the blessing by a bishop is necessary, and probably, too, such a blessing as is peculiar to it alone. That the bishop is the ordinary minister of this blessing is certain. So much is amply recognized in all the writings of the early centuries, by the early councils ; the Second Council of Carthage of 390, and the Third Council of Braga, 572 and by all modern theologians. But whether a priest may be the extraordinary minister of this blessing, and if so, in what circumstances – this is a question that is more or less freely discussed. It seems agreed that the Pope may delegate a priest for this purpose, but it is not so clear that bishops can bestow the same delegated authority ex jure ordinario. They exercised, it seems, this prerogative in former times in the East, but the power of delegating priests to bless chrism is now strictly reserved to the Holy See in the Western church The rites employed in consecrating the sacred chrism go to show that it is a ceremony of the highest importance. Formerly it could be blessed on any day of the year, according as necessity arose. Now, however, it must be blessed during the solemn mass on Holy Thursday. For the full solemn ceremonial the consecrating prelate should be assisted by twelve priests, seven deacons, and seven subdeacons. The oil and balsam, being prepared in the sacristy beforehand, are carried in solemn procession to the sanctuary after the communion, and placed on a table. Then the balsam, held on a silver salver, is blessed, and similarly the olive oil, which is reserved in a silver jar. After this the balsam is mixed with the oil. Then the chrism, being perfected with a final prayer, receives the homage of all the sacred ministers present, each making a triple genuflection toward it. and each time saying the words, ‘ave sanctum chrisma’. After the ceremony it is taken back to the sacristy and distributed among the priests, who take it away in silver vessels commonly called oil-stocks, that which remains being securely and reverently guarded under lock and key.

(4) Chrism is used in the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, in the consecration of churches, chalices, patens, altars, and altar stones, and in the solemn blessing of bells and baptismal water. The head of the newly baptized is anointed with chrism, the forehead of the person confirmed, the head and hands of a bishop at his consecration, and the hands of a priest at his ordination. So are the walls of churches, which are solemnly consecrated, anointed with the same holy oil, and the parts of the sacred vessels used in the mass which come in contact with the Sacred Species, as the paten and chalice. If it be asked why chrism has been introduced into the functions of the church liturgy, a reason is found in its special fitness for this purpose by reason, of its symbolic significance. For olive oil being of its own nature rich, diffusive, and abiding, is fitted to represent the copious outpouring of sacramental grace, while balsam, which gives forth most agreeable and fragrant odors, typifies the innate sweetness of Christian virtue. Oil also gives strength and suppleness to the limbs, while balsam preserves from corruption. Thus, anointing with chrism aptly signifies that fullness of grace and spiritual strength by which we are enabled to resist the contagion of sin and produce the sweet flowers of virtue. ‘For we are the good odor of Christ unto God’.

In conclusion it readily can be seen that the olive tree and its fruit have played a wonderful and conspicuous part in the history of the human race. From the ancient crowning of rulers and athletes with garlands made from its leaves, the placing of the boughs about the beloved dead, the race of primitive man that by its nourishing fruit and oil was kept from starvation and death, to the opening up of avenues of trade where otherwise there would have been no commerce, until the present days, the olive is famous and always will continue to be. Few substances have had the same fame, the same varied history, the same uplifting value that olive oil has had. It contributes not only to the nourishment of health, but also to the suppleness and beauty of the body; it has served as an anointing oil with which priests were elevated to the privilege of performing the sacred rights of the temple, using at their discretion both then and now the blessed oil in the solemn rites of the church. Kings and rulers were anointed with it, that the blessing of God might rest upon them, giving them grace to rule wisely the people under them. Great indeed would be the calamity to us, these people of modern times, if the olive orchards should become barren, the trees cease to yield their fruit, and the cruse of oil become empty

Comment: Phyllis Pray Bober on the Origins of Pasta   Leave a comment

Phyllis Pray Bober (obit 2002) wrote one of the most idiosnycratic and exciting food history books of recent years with her Art, Culture and Cuisine (Chicago 1999), which touches extensively on Italian cuisine, ancient and medieval. PPB attempted the impossible in her pages – the integration of artistic styles with cooking movements. Truly ambitious stuff!

The book has not had the success it richly deserved: we hope that this plug will sell a couple more copies.

This extract – concerning the origin of pasta – gives a flavour of her work. PPB favoured the Greek invention of pasta: but this depends on the priority of the Greek pasta words over the Arabic pasta words, something that has still not been fully established.

We give here the text without footnotes so as not to anger the gods of copyright.

‘The point has come to consider the vexed question of ancient pasta. Today at least there is enough responsible writing on food history to have laid to rest a persistent fable that Marco Polo brought noodles back from China, although his only surprise at ‘pasta’ (not at a loss for the word) he met on his trip was encountering noodles made not of flour but of breadfruit growing on trees.

There are two schools of scholarly thought concerning the beginnings of simple (i.e., flat varieties, not extruded hollow types) pasta-making. One follows an Arabist, Andrew Watson, who argues that it was the Arabs who invented pasta, introducing what has become the national dish to Sicily and South Italy in their conquests of the ninth century A.D. The Arabs certainly did bring reformed methods of farming to North Africa and Europe, as well as many new products, including sugar cane, eggplants, spinach, and a broad range of citrus fruits to supplement the citrons known in antiquity from Persia. But many scholars, myself among them, argue that noodles and lasagne, whoever invented their first (inevitable?) preparation of flour and water, sometimes with added egg or other ingredients, were already well known to Greeks and Romans. Our case has been enormously advanced by modern paleobotanical research which proves that durum wheat, the gluten-rich, ‘heavy’ wheat required for good pasta, was grown from an early date and is one of the reasons that much Greek and Roman bread was very dense. It was durum wheat that made Greek semidalis – semolina. For Watson, durum wheat was not an important crop before the medieval period.

Even so, the only widely read author on cookery outside the academic community who seems to have the right explanation is Patience Gray; in Honey from a Weed she announced the discovery of those who live in Apulia and other Italian provinces once the heartland of Magna Grecia (one I made for myself in May 1995) of the etymological proof needed to supplement botanical evidence. This involves two ancient Greek words: laganon, plural lagana; and itrion, itria. When one learns that the Arabic word itrijah, found in Aramic and Hebrew cognates, means ‘noodle’, it is difficult not to see a derivation from Greek, originally connoting ‘ribbon’. In the Salentine peninsula and the region around Taranto, the dialect preserves lagana for the rolled out square of dough used by housewives to be cut into pasta, and tria (itria) survives in the local dish, tagliatelle, cooked just as in ancient Greece with chickpeas and wild arugula (rocket). Part of the pasta is preserved in browned in oil in final assembly of the speciality as in a recipe preserved in Athenaeus (XVI, 647e) that incorporates lettuce juice to make green pasta.

The ‘waters’ of the pasta invention controversy were somewhat muddied by one Italian archaeologist who supplemented linguistic evidence with that of an artefact represented in an Etruscan tomb. The rock-cut supports of the Tomba dei rilievei at Cervetri are decorated with with reliefs of objects of all kinds, some for warfare, others of household equipment. One seemed to be an ancient spianatoia, a board for rolling out pasta, complete with a little bag of extra flour hanging from one handle. Alas, definitive study of the reliefs has now identified the object as a gaming board precisely like one shown on an Etruscan mirror being used by two competing Greek heroes. This does not negate Etruscan knowledge of pasta, however, and at least one museum devoted to history of the genre holds that they even rolled flat noodles about metal needles to fashion macaroni (much as medieval and Renaissance cooks would anticipate extruded manufacture of spaghetti at a later date).

A word on the uses of pasta by Greeks and Romans. The ‘ribbons’ as we met them earlier in the mattye were seemingly partially dried and broken up to add to stewed dishes as a form of thickening. And the chickpeas with tria and greens I so relished in Apulia as atavistic Western Greek fare are matched by Horace’s supper dish of chickpeas with leeks and lagani. (116-117)

Posted November 30, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Purcell – ‘The way we used to eat’   Leave a comment

Purcell, Nicholas ‘The way we used to eat: diet, community and history at Rome’, American Journal of Philology 124 (2003), 329-358. The author looks not at Roman foodways but rather at Romans in the late Republic and early Empire looking back at their own historical (and more often legendary) foodways: boxes within boxes, fleas upon fleas… Enjoy Roman writers – including Pliny and most prominently Varro – musing on pre-imperial Roman simplicity, where acorn-belching Romans (glandem ructante marito Juv vi) feasted on pork and roasted turnips. SY

Posted November 21, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Andrews – ‘Acclimatization of Citrus Fruits’   Leave a comment

Andrews, Alfred ‘Acclimatization of Citrus Fruits in the Mediterranean Region’, Agricultural History 35 (1961), 35-46. The author essentially offers a corrective to Samuel Tolkowsky’s classic study of citrus fruits: Hesperides. Andrews covers the arrival of citrus fruits in the Levant, in Greece, in Egypt and in Italy. For the last he makes an overwhelming case that citrus trees were already being grown in the peninsula by the first century AD, leaving their traditional carriers, the Sicilian Arabs, somewhat out in the cold. SY

Posted November 15, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Montanari — The Culture of Food   Leave a comment

The Culture of Food (Massimo Montanari) – The publisher’s choice of title for this book is unfortunate, in that Montanari has also published Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History, Food: A Culinary History, and Food Is Culture. One has to wonder why the original title—La fama e l’abbondanza, easily rendered in English as “Hunger and Abundance”—was not used, given the potential confusion. The book is, in any case, an excellent introduction to European food history from Roman times until the eighteenth century. While Montanari leans heavily on Italian examples, he makes an effort to extend his inquiry to all of Europe. The books lacks the dense, heavily footnoted texts of Montanari’s earlier books and is an easy read. Too bad that Montanari, a medievalist, didn’t bring the book up to the present. ZN

Posted October 7, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Nestle – ‘Mediterranean Diets’   Leave a comment

Nestle, Marion ‘Mediterranean diets: historical and research overview’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61 (1995), 1313-1320. Efficient general overview of the Mediterranean Diet – as Nestle takes it the Cretan peasant diet c. 1960 – from the earliest times through EURATOM. Final pages consider consequences of the MD for public health both in the Mediterranean heartlands and in the United States. SY

Posted September 23, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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Source: Sicilian Wine c. 1900   Leave a comment

The following comes from an American writer describing Sicilian wine c. 1900.

It was Cicero who said that in Sicily the sun was visible every day in the year, however bad the infertile weather. To the ancients Sicily was known as ‘the granary of Rome’. With soil so fertile that two crops could be raised in a year without impairing its substance, it is no wonder that Rome looked to this triangular island for wine and grain. Ceres, the Goddess of Plenty, according to the poets, had her residence here, and from here dispensed her favors so freely to mankind. Tradition ascribes to Sicily the honor of being the first place in Europe where wine was made. Homer, among his many lines of praise of this wonderful island, says, ‘Spontaneous wines from weighty clusters pour’. In the Bibliotheca of Diodorus Siculus the remarkable fertility of the Sicilian vineyards is often commented upon, and even in those early times the variety of the wines made upon the island was a subject of wonder and admiration.

The mountainous configuration of the island imparts to it a diversity of climate that makes variety of the vine an easy possibility, and its people have ever been ready to take advantage of the opportunities so bountifully bestowed upon them by the hand of nature. Near the seashore, amid the groves of date palms, oranges, and lemons, close to the cactus and the papyrus, the grape vine spreads its friendly branches, borne down with mighty clusters that soon will transmit to man the life they gathered from the bright rays of the tropic sun. The wines made from grapes grown near the shore are generally very strong and heavy, but farther inland and up the mountainsides they are varieties much lighter. Altitude in this climate of wine, has no restraining influence, and vines are readily grown as high up the mountains as four thousand feet above the sea level. The wine, of course, is light, being only about one half the strength of that grown on the plain, but its keeping qualities are good, improving perceptibly with age.

The ancient Sicilians were noted for their prodigality, and their extravagance and dissipations were so flagrant and notorious that they soon ceased to provoke comment and were taken as a matter of course. Their hospitality and the liberal and generous way in which they dispensed their grand old vigorous wines often caused remarks that were scarcely complimentary. Plato, in speaking of these people, says ‘they built as if they were always to live, and supped as if they were never to sup again’. How true were his words can readily be realized, for in Sicily to-day, almost twenty-five hundred years later, are to be seen the buildings of Plato’s time, grand specimens of the taste and industry of these olden people…

Marsala is the best known of the modern wines of Sicily, and by some is considered to be the equal of Marsala Madeira, which it greatly resembles. It wine. was first made on an estate which belonged to Lord Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar. It was originally called Bronte, after the estate, but subsequently received the name Marsala-Bronte, then Marsala. It has always sold remarkably well in England, but very little of it ever reaches America.

Until quite recently the vintage was very carelessly conducted, and the Sicilian rivalled his brother the Italian in his wanton wastefulness, but of late years, through the intercession of the nobility and others high in rank, viticulture has received more attention and in consequence better wines are being made.

The Sicilians have never, as a whole, earnestly sought for foreign markets for their wines, being satisfied to make only enough for home foreign consumption. Some few merchants have, however, sold their products abroad, but at rare intervals. Now they are seeking for foreign marts, and with every promise of success.

Some twenty-five years ago the Duke of Salaparuta began the making of Corvo wine with a view for foreign trade, and also to improve and advance the condition of the people in his district. His success has been signally satisfying, and Corvo wine is fast making a place for itself in almost every large city in the world. It is a light table wine, resembling in many respects the Sauternes of France, though perhaps a shade dryer. It is amber in color and while warming to the system it is not heady. Its one great recommendation is that it is a pure wine in every respect, and is therefore worthy of all the praise that can be bestowed upon it.

The Duke did not receive very much encouragement at the beginning of his venture, as it was thought to be an impossibility to make a pure article that the people would appreciate, and the enormous outlay of capital that was necessary for an enterprise such as he had planned was condemned on every hand. But this opposition had very little weight with him, and he proceeded to put his ideas to practical use with but little ceremony. He showed his wisdom by improving, instead of discarding, the local methods which were best adapted to the region. Science was brought to the aid of nature, and the result has been all that man could wish.

Don Enrico has made a thorough study oenology, and his knowledge of the science is comprehensive. Minutiae of detail are carefully observed both in practice and theory, and every possible advantage is taken of the smallest item that in any way promises a betterment of existing conditions. Every modern appliance that is used in vinification is to be found at Casteldaccia and the Villa Valguarnera. The vineyards produce nearly a quarter of a million gallons yearly of wine of the first order, every drop of which is aged by time alone, taking several years before it reaches that degree of perfection for which the wine is celebrated. European royalty has taken a decided fancy for the wine, and the greater part of it goes to them. Even the present Emperor of Germany, with the fine wine of the Rheingau at his disposal, is very fond of Corvo, and has praised it on many occasions. Freiherr von Babo, the director of the celebrated wine school of Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, who is considered to be the best authority of Europe, and in fact of the world, on wines, has endorsed Corvo wine unqualifiedly. Unfortunately for us, the demand for it in Europe is so great that very little of it reaches America at present.

In Sicily and in other wine countries drunkenness and intoxication are seldom met with, and although immense quantities of wine are consumed by every individual, over-indulgence is thought to be very degrading and by some almost a crime. Inebriety Should a man show an ungovernable uncommon, fondness for wine every art and device that can be thought of is used to correct this tendency, so that he may appear among his neighbors in his proper light and not be an object of scorn and abhorrence.

Among the people there is a story of a woman who had resorted to every expedient known in the community in order to reform an intemperate husband, but her efforts had been without result; the man was confirmed in his habits, and redemption seemed an impossibility. One evening when he was brought home in his usual state of inebriety she had him carried to the graveyard and placed him on one of the graves to sleep off the effects of the overindulgence. While he was sleeping she prepared him his supper and then donning a white, flowing robe and covering her face with a mask, she sat beside him awaiting his return to consciousness. When at last he opened his eyes she arose and in sepulchral tones said, ‘Arise and eat, it is my orders to feed the dead’. ‘Ah,’ said he, ‘if you had known me better you would have brought me something to drink instead’.

Wine has always played a part in the events of the island ; sometimes it has been a minor, but on several occasions it has been a very How the French lost factor. Charles of Anjou owes to wine his loss of Sicily, and also the lives of more than eight thousand of his soldiers. The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to this massacre, but very few know how it came about or why this time, Easter Monday, of all times, should be chosen for the uprising. The truth is that although the blow had been planned it was for a later period, and had it not been for wine it would have been deferred, and aged Giovanne da Procida, who was at the head of the conspiracy to drive the French from the island, would have had to look for another cause to begin the revolt.

It was the day after Easter, 1282; the people of Palermo were at a picnic on the meadows enjoying themselves as only the Sicilian knows how, and all thought of the morrow had been cast to the winds. Singing and dancing were everywhere heard and seen, when suddenly a company of soldiers that garrisoned the city came upon the scene. For a while all went pleasantly and the people, although somewhat constrained in the presence of the soldiers, kept up their merrymaking. But the soldiers soon tired of the decency and began to be insolent and abusive. To quote from Crawford, ‘they drank from cups of wine that no man had offered them, grossly jesting with the women and girls, who turned from them in angry silence’. The men were angered almost to fighting pitch, but with remarkable control restrained their passions and tried to overlook the almost unbearable rudeness. Intoxicated with wine, and every minute growing bolder, the captain of the company gave orders to search the men and also the women for concealed weapons ; he himself began the search, but it was the last act of his life, for as he was about to lay hands upon one of the women her husband cried out, ‘Now, let these rascals die at last’, and he had no sooner spoken than the captain lay dead at his feet. Every one of his soldiers were killed, not one escaped to tell the story; and that evening, when the vespers were rung on the bells of the church of the Holy Ghost, they also pealed the death knell to the reign of Charles of Anjou in Sicily. The insurrection spread and in a surprisingly short space of time more than eight thousand soldiers were massacred, and the island was free from the hated French.

Posted September 7, 2010 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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