Santa Margherita d’Antiochia in Vernazza
On July 20th, Vernazza is celebrating the patron saint, Saint Margaret of Antioch, Santa Margàitta in the local dialect.
As every year, the celebration program includes a full day, including market, team games for children, music, Holy Mass and fireworks.
In the past, however, the tradition included a real preparation for the feast, and we asked Tofa, one of the pillars of our community, to tell us a bit more about those days not so far away 🙂
Already during the novena preceding the feast (nine days before) of the patron of Santa Margherita, women started cleaning the house thus preparing for the festivities.
The day before was reserved for the preparation of the rice salty cake, a typical local dish and the “canescè” (also known as buccellato).
They got up early in the morning to cook the rice and at the same time, with the strong arms of the housewife / farmer, kneaded flour, eggs and other ingredients for the dough with a rolling pin. They greased the pan with good olive oil and the cake it was ready for the oven. Back then people had no ovens at home and the cakes were brought to the two existing bakeries in the village.
For the “canescè” for which, however, it was necessary to agree with the baker being necessary a certain amount of yeast, which had to be added at the right time, avoiding an early rising that would spoil the cake. To avoid exchanges of pans, each woman added a particular sign, the initial of the name, a line on the same pan or some other form of identification.
Meanwhile, in addition to the official bell-ringer, other young men climbed the tower to ring a three bells concertino called: “a turte”. These chimes entertained everybody in Vernazza and always represent a sweet memory.
During the day charity fairs and sporting events followed one another.
The festivities ended with the traditional bonfire on the rocks, where they used to burn old or useless things.
The church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia
A few words on the parish church of St. Margaret of Antioch: the building is documented since 1318, but presumably it was built already in the eleventh century and was then modified in the thirteenth century by the Magistri Antelami.
The structure was remodeled and expanded again in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with the construction of two bays to the nave. In 1750, then underwent a new revision which changed the interior adapting Romanesque to the Baroque style, these changes that were restored during the restoration works carried out between 1964 and 1970).
Among the peculiarities of the church is its octagonal bell tower, 40 meters high which rests directly on the four pillars of the presbytery and is characterized by the balcony that surrounds the tower, recalling the style of Muslim minarets. Worthy of note also the main entrance located in the apse.
Inside it there are two seventeenth-century paintings and a wooden crucifix attributed to the Genoese sculptor Anton Maria Maragliano.
Lenta e rosata sale su dal mare
la sera di Liguria, perdizione
di cuori amanti e di cose lontane.
Indugiano le coppie nei giardini,
s’accendon le finestre ad una ad una
come tanti teatri.
Sepolto nella bruma il mare odora.
Le chiese sulla riva paion navi
che stanno per salpare.
Vincenzo Cardarelli, “Sera di Liguria”