Piazza Tasso Sorrento

In Sorrento near Naples, southern Italy, there's a deep valley, also known as 'The valley of the mills'. There, between dense vegetation there's the old mill, functioning since the beginning of the 900's and used to produce flour. The mill was abandoned around 1866 when the creation of Tasso square isolated the mill from the sea, provoking a rise in the humidity, which soon forced the mills abandonment. Today the mill is among the tourists attractions of Sorrento. Sorrento like Massa Lubrense has always been called "The Land of the Sirens", that's why I got interested in this theme and started doing some research. Here's to you what I found Enjoy! Sirens, mystical creatures of an ancient past who are said to have inhabited Sorrento area since Greek times; statements of sirens existence are mainly found in Greek stories among which the most important is Homer's "Odyssey". Sirens physiognomy changed a lot during their first appearances, in early Greek art in fact, they used to be represented as birds with huge women's heads, bird feathers and scaly feet, turning later into female figures with bird's legs, with or without wings, who rejoiced themselves playing variety of musical instruments, especially harps. It is believed that their bird element was chosen because of their beautiful voices. According to the "Odyssey", Odysseus was so curious to hear the Siren's chant that in order to do that, on Circe's advice, he had all of his sailor's ear plug with beeswax and ordered his men to tie him to the mast and to not unbid him no matter his begging. When they came to pass near the Island of the Sirens, Odysseus heard their fascinating chant and begged his sailors to free him, but they did not give up to his entreaties. Once out of the earshot, his sailors released Odysseus. According to popular beliefs, Sorrento Peninsula is strictly related to the myth of the Sirens, and is commonly known also as the "Land of the Sirens". Scholars retains in fact that, according to Homer descriptions, Siren's liar would match exactly the morphological appearance described by the Greek poet. It is believed that those mythological creatures found in the mouths of Capri their ideal setting, being related, for the Greek imaginary, to a liminal situation between land and water, and for being those who rule over the elements and in particular to the condition and to the essential elements for navigation. The story goes that Sirens would have had a temple in the Sprrento Peninsula, possibly in Ieranto's Bay, and that their mythical lair would have been the famous "Li Galli" islands "Sirenuse" to the ancients. Some post-Homeric authors stated that the Sirens were fated to die if someone hearing their chant would have managed to escape them, according Licofrone in fact, having failed to attract Odysseus, "Li Galli" island's sirens, threw themselves into the sea letting the sea carry their dead bodies respectively to Terina (Ligeia), Licosa (Leukosia) and the other one in Naples (Parthenope). From the name of the sirens would derives the name of those places. Please find at the end of the page the direct link to download a calendar of the available events related to the wonderful Bay of Ieranto and to the story of the Myth of the Sirens.

It is believed that in Chapel Sansevero Naples took place a miracle: a man unlawfully arrested was being transferred to jail and here he consecrated himself to the Virgin. Right in that moment, a wall of the building fell, showing a painting of the Virgin. When the man's innocence was recognized, he restored the painting. For this reason, the chapel name would be Chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà. The devotion around this painting became so strong that even the prince of San Severo, Giovan Paolo Francesco di Sangro, being seriously ill, consecrated himself to the Virgin; when he recovered, he decided to build a chapel around the tiny painting. The works started in 1593, and in 1613 Alessandro di Sansevero, decided to enlarge the chapel so that it could house the tombs of the family. The man who gave the chapel its definitive form is the 7th prince of Sansevero, Raimondo di Sangro, who started working at the building in 1744. Raimondo di Sangro was an inventor, a scientist, an alchemist, a writer and, last but not least, a Mason: the final asset of the chapel is strictly connected to his beliefs and it carries all the values he believed in. The fact that he was a mason also led to an intepretation of the whole chapel as a masonic temple. The chapel consists in a rectangular nave surrounded by eight small chapels; two doors in the middle of the lateral walls lead to the crypt. The floor was a giant mosaic in black and white, representing the masonic symbol of a labyrinth.

Contrasting with the simple exterior, the interior of the Cappella Sansevero is extremely richly decorated, with an incredible amount of sculptures and a painted ceiling. The walls are covered in marble. The ceiling was painted by Francesco Maria Russo in 1749 with illusionistic frescoes: in fact, they reproduce a groined vault while the ceiling is in fact flat. However, according to the tradition, the colors own their brightness to a solution ideated by Raimondo di Sangro, who replaced the glue used in frescoes with other components he made. Another sculpture I particularly fancied is the Release from Deception by Francesco Queirolo, showing a man freeing himself from a net, symbol of the freedom from the earthly deceit, given by faith. According to the legend, the net is a real net that Raimondo di Sangro was able to transform into marble with an alchemic process. The realism is very impressive and a nice touch is also given by the globe, that shows the approximate geographical knowledge of those times. The Veiled Christ is now at the center of the chapel, but it was hypothetical to be in the crypt, where we can see an example of the scientific experiments the prince made. In fact, there are two "anatomical models" of a man and a woman, with their circulatory system hardened and visible. It was believed that the veins and the arteries had been hardened with the use of a secret substance invented by Raimondo di Sangro, but it has been demonstrated that they are synthetic and made of iron wire, silk and wax. Anyway, they're quite interesting by a scientific point of view - though I, not being a scientist, found them quite creepy. The real masterpiece anyway is, without any doubt, the Veiled Christ made by Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753. This statue is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of the world, Antonio Canova loved it and even tried to buy it. When looking at it, the impression you get is so strong it is almost unbelievable that this statue is made of marble: I discovered only later that there's a legend also for this sculpture, saying that the veil would be a real one, turned into marble by Raimondo di Sangro. My favourite details are the wounds on the hands and the feet, visible under the thin veil.

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