So, about this feast . . .

I have been saying in some posts now that the centerpiece of our trip is the Festa di San Michele a Soglio di Orero, which seems a jawbreaker of a title. You’ve heard enough about meals, so I’ll spend today demystifying that title; you may find it more interesting than it seems.

Italian politics are famously dysfunctional, and one reason might be that they are excessively complicated from their roots at the smallest possible level. To be fair, American cities aren’t a walk in the park either: we have counties, townships, cities, towns, and villages; but theirs seem even more puzzling.

San Michele of the title is St. Michael the Archangel; “Michele” is pronounced “mi-KAY-lee.” The full Italian name of the parish here is the Parrochiale di San Michele Arcangelo a Soglio di Orero. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all revere Michael the Archangel, and several Christian denominations observe his feast day on September 29. (You may have read references to “Michaelmas” in British literature.) So Sunday is the local parish’s patronal feast, and thus the reason (excuse?) for a festa in San Michele’s honor.

But what about this a Soglio di Orero business? Well, that identifies which church of San Michele we’re talking about. Michael is a popular saint in Italy, and there are a lot of churches dedicated to him. This San Michele is located “at” Soglio “in” Orero. Orero is a comune (co-MOO-nay), which is, basically, a town. Soglio (the “g” is silent, so it rhymes with “oleo”) is a frazione (frot-si-OH-nee), which is a subdivision of a comune. Wikipedia says that a frazione is equivalent to a parish or a ward. From what we can see, each frazione does indeed have its own church: from the floor of the valley below you can see at least four churches. And Soglio is about 400 meters from one end to the other: about the size of my ward back home. All the subdivisions are marked with street signs, so on the road you’re constantly passing signs marking the borders of something.

Costantino Lavezzo (that’s the correct spelling, another story), my great-great grandfather, was baptized at this church, about fifty feet from where I’m sleeping. My great-great grandmother Rosa Raggio was baptized in 1816, also at a Church of St. Michael; but hers was in Romaggi, a frazione within the comune of San Colombano Certenoli. And that’s where they were married in 1840 (you know, the church-of-the-bride tradition). The two churches are less than 3 km apart, but it’s an 11-km drive because of the switchback mountain roads. Costantino probably did his courting on foot!

Rosa emigrated to the USA with her living children around 1870, and she died in Chicago in 1898. Tomorrow, we are planning to visit her church in Romaggi.

Today’s photo: a view of the campanile (bell tower) of the Church of San Michele in Soglio, where my great-great grandfather Costantino was baptized in 1813. This picture was taken from outside my room here.

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Author: StgCoach

Retired teacher and public education leader. Pastoral musician, community activist, parliamentarian, and photographer.

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