Darlene Foster gives us a guided tour of the port of Messina with its stunning architecture and history.
Madonna of the Letter and 236 Steps in Messina by Darlene Foster
Have you ever been to Sicily? That island off Italy at the end of the boot. As a kid in school I was always fascinated by that part of the map. I was fortunate that our recent cruise made a stop at the port of Messina. We were greeted by a golden Madonna perched on top of a very tall column, as we entered the harbour. The words – “Vos et ipsam cictatem benedicimus” at the bottom made me curious. Although it rained heavily, I was not deterred and left the ship to explore. I was excited to be in Sicily.
My first stop was the Duomo de Capanile, the main cathedral in the city. It seemed like a good place to start, and to get out of the rain. The massive bronze front door embossed with biblical scenes was impressive. The vast central nave lined with marble pillars and archways, held alcoves with marble statues of the disciples and apostles. In an elaborate setting at the end was an image of the Madonna of the Letter, the patron saint of the city.
Impressive front door of the Messina Cathedral
Apostles in the nave
I stopped in the gift shop to buy postcards and ask questions. The friendly shop keeper was happy to oblige a curious Canadian. She explained to me that the words under the Madonna at the entrance of the port translates into – “We bless you and the city” This was supposed to have been written in a letter to the people of Messina by the Virgin Mary when they converted to Christianity in 42 AD, after a visit from the apostle Paul. This explained why she is called Madonna della Lettera or Madonna of the Letter. I purchased a ticket to visit the museum and attached clock tower.
Cathedral with clock tower
After a quick look through the museum, I ventured next door to climb the 236 steps to the top of the bell tower. It was worth every step. The belfry houses the largest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world. On the landings I viewed, from the inside, the amazing mechanically animated bronze images that rotate on the façade of the tower at the stroke of noon. At the top levels hang the massive bells that ring out the time. I was fortunate I timed my visit between the ringing of the bells. Once at the top, I was rewarded with a splendid view of the city from all four directions. The rain stopped and the sun shone for my benefit.
The view from the top of the bell tower
I took my time going down, in order to have a better look at the intricate figures, aided by explanations on boards in English as well as Italian. The carousel of life was composed of four golden life size figures representing childhood, youth, maturity and old age, with death in the form of a skeleton following behind. Biblical scenes depicted on other carousels are changed according to the liturgical calendar. One scene was dedicated to the Madonna of the Letter where an angel brings the letter to the Virgin Mary followed by St. Paul and the ambassadors who bow when passing in front of the virgin.
The Carousal of Life
Madonna of the Letter Carousel
Once back down, I removed my raincoat and wandered the streets. I found an iron worker creating figures in front of his shop called Hollywood, interesting sculptures including an imposing conquistador, a quote from Shakespeare and the picturesque Church of the Catalans built before Norman times on a pagan site. I stumbled upon an overgrown archaeological dig behind a municipal building which gave me a glimpse of life in Roman times.
Church of the Catalans
Amazing carvings and sculptures everywhere you look
Shakespeare mentions Messina in Much Ado About Nothing
I purchased a bag of Italian pasta, a great reminder of my enjoyable time in this Sicilian city. The shop keeper told me that Messina doesn’t have anything old as there have been so many earthquakes over the centuries and much had to be rebuilt. The last major earthquake was in 1908. I guess age is subjective.
As the ship left port later that day, I waved goodbye to The Madonna of the Letter with her comforting message sent to the citizens of this city two thousand years ago. A day to remember.
©Darlene Foster 2016 – Images
Thanks to Darlene for these stunning photographs and introduction to Messina and Sicily. For those who might not get to make the trip it gives us a glimpse of something spectacular.
About Darlene Foster
Darlene Foster is a writer, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor for children, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her 13-year-old grandson called her “super-mega-woman-supreme”.
She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She currently divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca in Spain, with her husband Paul.
“Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask” was her first published novel. Once bitten by the travel bug, Amanda travels to other interesting places, sticking her nose in other people’s problems and getting herself in trouble. Read “Amanda in Spain – The Girl in the Painting”, “Amanda in England – The Missing Novel”, “Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone”, and “Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music” and “Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind” to find out the adventures Amanda has as she travels the world.
Here is Darlene’s latest book – Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind.
Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.
One of the recent review for Amanda in New Mexico on Goodreads
Darlene Foster has written another lively adventure story for young readers who enjoy traveling, exploring and solving a good mystery. Fans of the Amanda Travels series won’t be disappointed with this fast-paced book which will keep them on edge with a spooky plot and unexplained events.
The story is character driven. Amanda is a fun, upbeat, curious, caring and memorable character that readers will want as a friend — especially since she has keen radar and is always ready to solve a good mystery. And, Amanda can’t resist a good mystery — even if it involves ghosts, cold breezes brushing her shoulders and unexpected incidents. Her friend Cleo is more sensitive to the presences around and finds it safer to sketch the sites they visit instead of explore. Caleb is more pragmatic, the group photographer and a good balance for Amanda.
Readers will learn about history, geography, architecture, artifacts and shiver at the presence of ghosts that are rumored to be haunting many of the places they visit in Taos — the Mable Dodge Luhan house, the Governor Bent Museum, the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge and bridge, Ojo Caliente hot springs, the Palisade Sills, the St. James Hotel, and the Enchanted Circle Pottery. They will have an opportunity to attend the Day of the Dead celebration. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind is the sixth book in the Amanda Travels series.
Also by Darlene Foster
Read the reviews and buy all of Darlene’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA
Read more reviews and follow Darlene on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster
Connect to Darlene via her website and social media.
If you are interested in joining Darlene and the other writers who are sharing posts from their archives and showcase your books or blog….. here is the link: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/happy-new-year-and-the-start-of-the-2018-series-of-smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives