Images, Niches of the Saints, Crosses in Montemagno

The presence in Calci countryside of a lot of religious images, both public and private ones has been well illustrated by Giovanni Benvenuti's book. (1A).

In Montemagno, one can easily come across ”Marginette” at cross roads or in places where once processions passed by, or Missionaries stopped, or in the church squares, in the cemeteries and so on.
Many are original, not very old, some of them have replaced older ones, in other cases they are a simple print of a holy image. Some of these don't exist anymore, others are in a bad shape, worn out by time and weather, either for the poverty of the materials or for the negletfulness of the faithful who are not keen on this kind of belief (even if, in some cases, we can see a light on, or some flowers in front of the tabernacles) Sometime the date of the production is present.

The images which have been taken into consideration are those found going on from St. Rocco (via di Pianello) to the main street of the village (via Eugenio III) or in the neighbourhood and in the countryside. We have described the images or niches in a very simple way, without any historical and artistic analysis about the painting or ceramics. In each case information of measurement, materials used, chronological indication, whenever possible, and the place where they are, has been given. We also talk about religion, tradition and about their miraculous powers.
We can't exclude the possibility that other images are present in our area.

The bibliography about this subject is very wide, there are works of specialists, local lovers or schools. Often photos aren't clear and pictures are deteriorated. The possibility we have had in using a digital camera and in downloading everything on a CD gave us a better way of illustrating them instead of the paper texts even if our images are sometimes not very clear because of glass screen, lack of light and so on.

References used for this text are listed in the Bibliography (1B, 1C, 1D, 1E).

The construction of tabernacles and the representation of holy images at cross roads, or along the roads, are well known in Greek and Latin world as Hermes, phallic images, little temples dedicated to Vesta or Lari and Penati, or to Gods of fields (i.e.: Lustratio Pagi , the feast held in spring for a good harvest). These testified the devotion or the presence of a border inside the territory.
With the coming of Christianity, God, Holy Mary or Saints have taken the place of pagan Gods sometime with the same iconography and with the same characteristics (i.e. St. Anthony with Baby Jesus has the same iconography of Hermes and Dionisus; Holy Mary is similar to Giunone Lucina protector of childbirth). In many cases even Christian religious festivities fall in the same period of the pagan ones (the feast of may in the ancient world and in the Christian religion).
The Romanic churches of XII-XIII century can be considered the direct descendants of Sacella Compitalia , little temples dedicated to Lari.
After the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church used Holy Images celebrating the Saints cult like religious polycentrism against the Reformed Churches.
During XVI century and the following centuries there is a flourishing of “Oratori”, little churches built in the countryside by “Confraternite” (Brotherhood, 2 ), often set where a tabernacle once stood. In other cases chapels were built in places where a miracle had taken place (1B).
Holy images are always represented in a typical way. The believers can easily tell the Saints from certain charatheristics and particular symbols. Each one of these has particular functions.
A lot of images are connected to Holy Mary cult and to particular Saints as St. Rocco or St. Sebastian who are well known for sending away the plague. In many cases Missionaries and Preachers going to the villages were very important (in our country Certosa Friars have had a lot of importance). Sometimes a saint man who lived in the village was celebrated. Sometimes images have been built for a grace received or for surviving from a danger as the plague or the war.
The name of many images is connected to Holy Mary different cult representations: Madonna Addolorata, del Rosario, del Soccorso.
As a lot of images stand on the border of a propriety they are called “Marginette”, meaning “on the border”.

Their rapresentations go on until our days. In the shelters or near the animals troughs there was St. Anthony image, as he is the animals protector. Till some years ago, to ask for a good harvest in the countryside, Rogationes were done and faithful stopped and prayed in front of the tabernacles.
The blessing of fields and olive trees was done also in Montemagno.

In this work we studied 25 images, 16 of which are Holy Mary images seen through her different symbols. Normally She has Baby Jesus in her arms. Other images are of St.Anthony of Padua, there are some Crosses, and a Christ very damaged.
It would be important to do some comparison with other similar images in our area, to study the materials and typologies, to know the commissioners, the function and the date they were made


1A- “Tabernacoli e immagini devozionali nella parrocchia di Nicosia a Calci” di Giovanni Benvenuti. Calci 1997
B- “Religiosità popolare e architettura nel Chianti”, a cura del centro studi sulla cultura contadina del Chianti – biblioteca comunale di Radda. Salimbeni Libreria Editrice Firenze, 1979
C- “Alla scoperta delle Marginette” di Mariano Manfredini, a cura dell’assessorato alla cultura del Comune di Capannori. Maria Pacini-Fazzi editore in Lucca, 1988
D- “Immagini devozionali, le Marginette di Camaiore” a cura del Lyons club Versilia, coordinamento di Stefania Campetti. Lucca 1998
E- “Immagini della pietà religiosa nel Comune di Viareggio”, realizzato da alcune classi del Liceo Scientifico di Viareggio, coordinamento Prof. Anichini, a cura del Soroptimist Club Viareggio Versilia e dalla Provincia di Lucca. Arti Grafiche Mario Pezzini e Graziella Vg, 1993

2 The Brotherhood is made up either of a group of people living in the same village or of a group of people having the same kind of work or craft. They were well known in the late latin or middle age world. The history of these Brotherhoods deserves a dedicated chapter. See the page on Artisans, shops, social life.
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