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Discovering the Sanctuary carved into the rock

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  3. The Sanctuary carved into the rock

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Cape Milazzo, Marine Riserve

On a sunny day and summer wind, now at sunset, when the sirocco lashes the cliffs of the Bay of St. Antonino, here we are immersed in the celestial peace of the evening Capiciana; we find ourselves at 12 June 2018 and the scents of the Mediterranean flora, that dry and bitter smell of sun-soaked herbs and salt, take us in the heart and push us to the Sanctuary of S. Antonino, on pilgrimage, together with droves of boys, who with a sweet heart of candied fruit, of "gileppo", go to the holy cave.

What are we  talking about?

Let's talk about the Reserve of Capo Milazzo and a Saint, small and big at the same time, who first enjoyed the summer sunsets and the breathtaking beauty of the places that the Divine Logos had given to Milazzo, a land born from a miracle of geology , from the imposing telluric movements that carry on the cliffs of the head, creating the eighth island Eolia.
Here the Saint, the good one, St. Anthony of Padua, was shipwrecked in January 1221, returning from Morocco, where he had traveled in the autumn of 1220, to bring the new story to the peoples of the past. On the return from Morocco, a storm and our stormy pelago, push him on the rocks of the Bay of S. Antonino, which takes its name from him. The Saint is assisted by captain sailors, who see him off the coast of Punta Messinese, suffering and exhausted, submerged by the rushing waves, with the wind beating incessantly on a sinking vessel, they meet him and save him, to him and to little brother who was with him, Filipino of Castile. The two take refuge in the miserable natural cave, like other ravines that the limestone cliff offers, what will become the famous Grotta di S.Antonino, as well as Ferdinando di Buglione (this was his real name, because we speak of a Portuguese nobleman) called to Milazzo, that is to say "the little Antonio". It 'sa coincidence, but we would say in hindsight, a sign of God, who wants it in Milazzo, where the malevolence and culture of the Arab invaders raged. But Antonio, even in his short existence, in fact he will die at 36, conquers the hearts of the Milazzesi and Capiciani, who even if a people in their own right, a sort of islanders, are conquered by the sermons of the Saint, who from high and noble, becomes small and humble, as a kitchen boy, who feeds the people, rises in the light of his speeches, marked by peace, creation, creation, love and the light of intelligence, what seems to be missing at the Milazzesi that although they possess the treasure of these beautiful places, they do not open their hearts and destroy every creature of the Capo di Milazzo.

Let's go back to the beautiful small and large Church in the rock

The church of St. Anthony of Padua, carved into the rock, is a cave, enriched over time by beautiful altars of inlaid marble. Today is one of the most important points for Milazzo, in fact it is one of the most visited by tourists, who have the opportunity to admire the landscape and to know the great religious and cultural tradition of the place. The church, with a single nave and bell gable, has a simple classical portal of 1699 with a niche next to it containing the Saint's polychrome statuette. The main altar was built in 1699, while the new side altar of the Madonna della Provvidenza and the floor in 1737. The wooden statue of the Saint (1704) by the Palermitan sculptor Noè Marullo replaced the sixteenth century gone destroyed by a fire. The side walls are covered with marble slabs with bas-reliefs depicting the miracles of the saint. The door of the sacristy, in polychrome marbles and with carved wooden doors, dates back to 1737. In a small room carved out of the rock is the ancient place of prayer of St. Anthony.
However, when he arrived in Africa, he contracted an unspecified tropical disease and after a few months, persevering he was convinced by Filippino to return to Coimbra. The two friars embarked on their way to Spain, but the ship came upon a storm and was driven ashore on the coasts of eastern Sicily, near Capo Milazzo, where the Santuario di Sant'Antonio di Padova is present in memory. Helped by the fishermen, the two were taken to the nearby Franciscan convent of the Sicilian city. Here the two friars were informed that in May, on the occasion of Pentecost, Francis of Assisi had gathered all his friars for the General Chapter. The invitation to participate was extended to everyone and in the spring of 1221 Antonio, with the friars of Messina, began to climb Italy on foot.

The meeting with Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua in a fresco by Simone Martini

The journey lasted several weeks. For Antonio the General Chapter proved to be a fundamental opportunity to meet Francis of Assisi directly, since he had known his teaching only through indirect witnesses. The chapter, presided over by the Cistercian cardinal Rainiero Capocci, took place in the valley around the Porziuncola where more than three thousand friars were gathered; they built huts for mats and for this reason it was remembered as the Chapter of Mats. Friar Giordano da Giano described the event:

"A Chapter like this, both for the multitude of religious as for the solemnity of the ceremonies, I never saw again in our Order. And although the number of the friars was so great, yet with such abundance the population provided for it, that after seven days the friars were forced to close the door and no longer accept anything; on the contrary two days remained to consume the food already offered and accepted.

This and many other places testify to the passage of the thaumaturgist in Sicilian land during his two stays before and after the death of Francis of Assisi. Not only temporary dwellings, but also the building of places of worship of the Franciscan Order. Turned into a place of worship as early as 1232, in 1575 it assumed the appearance of a church.
On the high altar there is a wooden statue of the saint, a work of the eighteenth century, and on the side altar a valuable canvas by an unknown artist, of the seventeenth century, depicting the Madonna della Provvidenza.

Here from the Capo di Milazzo we launch a powerful video signal

We are here now to launch a poster to an electronic signal that guides them in the right choices of respect for the immense Logos that animates these unique places in the world, beautiful in the heart of this diamond that is Sicily, of which Milazzo represents the eighth wonderful island Eolia that has embraced with the land. We are here to enjoy the effluvi and the hot summer wind and we have turned these simple images for you, with little means but a lot of joy, turning to friends who look at us from abroad with tears in their eyes, hoping that they too can immerse with us in the beauty of the places and in the peace and love that emanates from the Grotta del Santo. Indeed, it seems that the boys who come here on pilgrimage often crown their dream of love, as we can see in the movie, where in the end a married couple, thanking the Saint who made them meet, celebrate the Love , the one with the big "A".

From the Infermo and Paradiso trail:
view of Punta Messinese, Capo Reserve


How to describe the beauty of these places?

With the colors of these photos we have taken, the yellow of the euphorbie in spring and of the brooms, the pink of the carnation rupicolo, the scabiola cretica, the thorny blades of opunthie tune with red acres, the luxuriant spot of mastic, heather, olive trees from the crowns sculpted by the wind and honeysuckle, the background of the Adriatic blue sea, its white spume, the clear skies of the horizon and the Peloritans and the Etna to the south, and further north the island of Vulcano, in short heaven on earth!

index environment

Related link:
La Riserva Marina di Capo Milazzo
riserva del capo: le piante parte prima
riserva del capo: le piante parte seconda
Aspetti floro-vegetativi di Capo Milazzo . parte prima
Aspetti floro-vegetativi di Capo Milazzo . parte seconda
Immagini di Mario Crisafulli relativi alla preziosa flora della Riserva di Capo Milazzo
Immagini di Mario Crisafulli relativi alla preziosa flora della Riserva di Capo Milazzo- parte seconda
riserva del capo: la fauna, mammiferi
riserva del capo: Uccelli nidifanti e migratori in estinzione
riserva del capo: rettili ed amfibi