A common notice one spots in Italy, especially outside public offices, is “closed for Patron Saint’s holiday”. By law, every comune in Italy has an extra annual holiday dedicated to their patron saint which falls on the saint’s day in the church calendar. Coreglia Antelminelli’s patron saint is Saint Michael and his holiday fell yesterday
Coreglia Antelminelli is a very beautiful comune on a level close to that of Barga and, fortunately, without Barga’s surfeit of summer visitors.
The Patron Saint was celebrated by a procession, solemn high Mass, a fair and, to top it all, a choral concert in which three choirs sang in the parish church of San Michele, a building full of interest, a lot older than it looks, with a beautiful statue of the Virgin:
and an ancient pre-Romanesque (8th century?) pulpit base in the form of a cow. Who said sacred cows only occur in India?
The first choir to sing was Coreglia Antelminelli’s own with the participation, as soloist, for some items, of the parish priest Don Nando who has such a good singing voice that the conductor suggested he might be in the wrong job. All the pieces sung were liturgical – praising God. Indeed, this was the main theme of the evening as befits a church, since the commune’s theatre was deemed too small to accommodate the seventy-plus singers, let alone the audience.
The choir that followed was our own Coro di San Pietro e Paolo di Ghivizzano, introduced as “the choir which sang this year for Pope Francis in the basilica of St Peter’s Vatican.” So we had to sing well after that entrée and I feel we did, putting our all into pieces we knew very well by Frisina, Saint-Saens and Perosi.
The final choir was for me the most spectacular: the Lucca Joyful Angels Gospel choir brought back into new life thanks to a new director and a new accompanist – our own choir-master Andrea Salvoni who, acting also as accompanist for the other two choirs, must have been quite shattered by the end of the evening although he gave no sign of it.
The church was packed; the audience was very responsive to all that was sung. Indeed, the atmosphere became electric and we were all treated to a standing ovation at the end when all our three choirs sang that great piece “Brother Sun Sister Moon” all about St Francis.
A “rinfresco”, of mammoth proportions for the singers followed in Coreglia’s theatre (which I never knew existed) and we were suitably fed and watered after what I felt was a most satisfying choral evening for both singers and audience alike
And Saint Michael? There were two beautiful statues of St Michael in the church and, before his altar, another statue which had been carried in procession on a palanquin. I’m sure that the beautiful hilltop town of Coreglia Antelminelli must be well-protected from its enemies by this well-armed heavenly warrior!
I was reminded of this most powerful of Saints and Archangels and the time I had visited Mont Saint Michel in France, whence this poem was conceived:
TO SAINT MICHAEL
Saint Michael, light’s archangel, ring with fire
the subterfugeal dragon with your sword;
in heaven’s war lamed souls once more aspire
to walk the fragrant gardens of their Lord.
You speak from burning crests and keep the Word
creating sky and earth, the wind and sea;
and cast from north to south a line to gird
with strength this pilgrimage and set me free.
Beyond jade mountains lead, resist and fight:
your shrines are fortresses within men’s hearts
encased by swirling tide and gargoyled height,
enfolded in veiled clouds and shrouded arts.
Perfected force, revealing energy,
through your pellucid eyes at last I see.