Child Murder and Martyrdom in Casabasciana

Casabasciana’s fan-tail shape can be easily spotted from the heights above it. It is a large village and the next to last one that leads to Crasciana La Pomposa, its traditional rival and the highest village in the Val di Lima at a height of 2585 feet.

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Casabasciana’s patron saint is San Primo, an early Christian martyr whose remains were brought here from a Roman catacomb in the nineteenth century when churches all over Italy were looking for  saintly relics.

Saint Primo is celebrated every year on the second Sunday in August but every five years the celebration expands in pomp and glory and this year we decided to visit the village to witness the greater festivities.

We arrived just as the procession was re-entering the church in this this incredibly steep village.

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The church bells were clanging at an earth-shaking reverberation throughout the picturesque streets of the village. The confraternity were holding their elaborate standards and religious banner and a company of cleric included Don Castellani the bishop of Lucca whose presence and celebration of the Mass confirmed the great importance of this event.

The church itself is dedicated to saint Quirico and Giulitta. The present building dates from 1513 but its origins go back to 918 where the original Pieve di Casabasciana, now commonly known as the Pieve di Sala, still stand between the Lima River and Casabasciana and is now (at last) having it beautiful bell tower restored. (For more on this Pieve see my post at

In 1836 the relic of saint Primo was installed in the church and the saint became Casabasciana’s patron saint. His little body is now covered with wax and kept in a glass fronted wooden reliquary in which there’s also an urn containing his blood.

There are some significant works of art in the church including a painting by Luccan artist Giovanni Domenico Lombardi representing the martyrdom of saint Quirico and Giulitta which is placed on the main altar.

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The organ loft and cantorum are wonderful works dating from the end of the eighteenth century and designed by Mastro Benigni from san Quirico di Valleriana. The steps leading to the organ loft are the steepest I’ve found anywhere!

Who was San Primo? Not much is known about him except that he lived around 300 and was executed when four years and eight months old by the emperor Diocletian. What a bastard of an emperor!

Primo’s remains were re-discovered in 1831 and, thanks to the Jesuit father Silvestro Iacopucci, were taken to his own village of Casabasciana, The remain were carried by boat to Viareggio, thence by ox-cart to Lucca where they were venerated in the Angeli Custodi oratory (where those wonderful concerts are now held). Thence they were taken to Bagni di Lucca and finally in 1833 installed in Casabasciana.

The inner walls of the church were bedecked for this rarer occasion with fabulous shot-silk hangings dating back to the eighteenth century were. To the right of the altar, gorgeouly surrounded by fresh flowers, was little saint Primo himself.

The bishop gave his blessing. The congregation lined up to kiss a relic of the saint and then depart from the incredibly hot and close atmosphere of the beautifully kept church into the fresher air outside. We headed towards the main square where a concert by the Corsagna band was promised at nine.

I know the Corsagna band and it high standard well and we preferred instead to take a walk into the woods surrounding the elegant borgo before taking to our car and driving back home.

If you wish to join in the procession do remember it’s on the second Sunday of August and that the next big one will be in 2020.

We are so glad we managed to make it to the festa. After all, who knows where we’ll be in five year time when the big time for the little saint return?

3 thoughts on “Child Murder and Martyrdom in Casabasciana

  1. I wonder how the fact of kissing a reliquiary of this Saint Primo is going to change people’s lives this was not even suggested at all it would be nice to make an educated.choice which also carries a particular purpose apart from respect for the Saint as to why we are invited to do this act of kissing maybe this is simply just a lovely loving act? I have just heard that a Madonna at Giampilieri Messina is crying tears of perfumed oil and has been so doing now for several years this is indeed fascinating it seems that there is an important message to be drawn from this fact I wonder what this could be! It has just been stated that maybe it is a sign of people’s impending religious conversion be as it may it is to be verified. Well despite the amazing theatricality of the the religious event and the belief of all that were present at this religious ceremony it was a beautiful occasion to celebrate in recognition for an innocent child and to maintain this memory truly alive and this certainly succeeds well in keeping this memory active! Despite the intensive heat still we were later able to finally enjoy a much needed walk in the surrounding area which we explored for a few hours. A lovely day was had and enjoyed by all!

    • Durkheim, the sociologit equates religion with society. The whole point about these ceremonies is that they bring people together both locals and their emigrated. when thesse local rites are no longer carried out it mean the end of the community, the death of the village as has happened when the Corpus Christi procession now no longer take place between san Gemignano and Pieve di Controni since 2013.

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