Friday, August 14, 2009

Assumption Eve festivities, Messina, Sicily

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

Today the festivities include the parading of two huge statues, I Giganti, a pair of 8-metre papier-maché giants representing Messina's legendary founders, Mata and Grifone.

Once upon a time there was gigantic Moorish Saracen, by the name of Grifone, who landed at Messina (the third largest city on the island of Sicily) and proceeded to sack the town. As soon as he met the beautiful Mata in Camaro, he fell in love with her and wanted to marry, but the giantess refused because he was cruel and Muslim, whereas she was very kind and Christian. I believe the Muslim version of the tale differs slightly.

However, the dark, nasty Grifone fell so madly in love with the beautiful blonde Mata, or perhaps, like George W Bush, he had such a spiritual turnaround, that he became kind and was baptised, so naturally Mata married him and they happily ever after with many children. Thus was Messina founded.

According to another legend, Grifone and Mata were Muslim prisoners taken by the mercenary soldier Ruggero D'Altavilla in 1086. Another says that in 964, during the siege of Messina, Arab General Hassas Ibn-Hammar fell in love with Mata, the beautiful daughter of a local merchant, and forced her to marry him. The Saracen did all he could to win her love, but to no avail until his conversion to Christianity, whereupon he changed his name to Grifo, and soon became known as Grifone (Big Grifo). In this version, Mata and Grifone also lived happily ever after.

Cam and Rea are among a number of alternative names for the legendary founders of Messina. In fact, Messina was founded by Greek colonists in the 8th Century BCE, but let's not spoil a good yarn.

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Blogger Giovanni said...

There is a little typo: the date of the siege is, obviously, 964, not 1964.

2:05 AM  
Blogger Pip said...

Oops! Thanks Giovanni. Have corrected it now.

7:02 AM  

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