O, the month of May, the merry month of May,
So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
O, and then did I unto my true love say,
Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my Summer’s Queen.
The weather on the first of May this year wasn’t quite as merry as the month is supposed to be. A light soft rain at frequent intervals meant it was definitely a part-time umbrella day. This, however, did not deter us from celebrating the start of May which, in the Roman Catholic calendar is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The day started with a visit to the chapel of Saint Joseph which is the one you pass on the road just after Gombereto. It’s very rarely open for business so we were glad to find that there was a Mass celebrated on Saint Joseph’s day which falls on May 1st.
The chapel is in good condition apart from some damp on the walls and is now approached by a highway of a footpath to replace the old gravel one which was washed away. On the altar is an excellent copy of a beautiful painting by Murillo showing the young Jesus with his dad.
If you’re a Londoner and think you’ve seen the original somewhere there then you’re right. The original is called “The Two Trinities”, dates from around 1680 and is in the National Gallery. The Gombereto copy omits the Virgin and the Trinity to concentrate on Saint Joseph, to whom, after all, the chapel is dedicated.
Murillo is one of those painters whose reputation, like, for example, Guido Reni, has suffered since the nineteenth century. His pictures have now been deemed to be too often sentimental and cloying. Yet the Spanish painter’s life was quite other than gentle. His parents died when he was just nine and Murillo outlived his wife and all but three of his nine children. He lived through a particularly war-torn period of Spanish history and died as a result of falling off scaffolding while working on a painting for Cadiz’s Capuchin church.
Gombereto’s’ copy fails to appreciate the original triangular composition which compares the heavenly trinity of God, Christ and the Holy Ghost with the earthly one of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. It still, however, includes the flowering rod in Joseph’s hand showing that he had been chosen to be Jesus’ dad. Jesus is shown on a stone illustrating the passage from Isiah: ‘thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion…a precious corner stone, a sure foundation’.
From the sacred to the secular, as usually occurs in Italy, is but a short step and we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon at Fornaci di Barga’s first of May celebrations, an event which goes back many years. The high street was mercifully closed to through traffic and there were plenty of stalls especially selling flowers. We concentrated on cabbages and zucchini for our allotment, however.
That luminary in the geological field, Marco Barsanti, opened up his association’s marvellous collection of fossils and minerals to the public. I’ve already posted this under-publicised museum at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/the-earth-at-our-feet/.
The collection is always being expanded (although I noted the model dinosaur seems to have walked away) through Marco’s efforts and is truly marvellous in its quality and variety both of rocks and minerals:
There were plenty of specimens for sale to the general public, no doubt extracted with the greatest care and effort from mother Earth.
Rain certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying the first of May and we look forwards to the ever-abundant cornucopia of events which the start of May kicks off and which continues throughout summer in Lucca province and most other places in festive Italy. For a start, thinking on a international scale, have you booked your ticket for Milan’s and the world’s “Expo 2015” yet? Already ten million tickets have been booked, (two of which are ours!).