On the day of my visit to the sanctuary of S. Lucia in Sassinoro, I had an experience so glorious in its absurdity that it had to be documented and shared.
While admiring the inside of the church of S. Lucia in Sassinoro, my host Giovanna pointed out the last-minute preparations being made for a wedding that was to take place shortly: the bride and groom’s seats and pew had been padded with white satin drapery; the central aisle carpeted with a white runner and strewn carefully with orange rose petals. Bouquets of yellow flowers decorated the pews on either side of the carpet, creating a strong visual perspective towards the magnificent, suspended cross with its incredible, rocky backdrop.
As we walked out into the dappled sunlight I began to say my goodbyes, but my eyes were drawn to a strange apparition on the far side of the courtyard, standing directly opposite a white marble statue of Padre Pio. Like the glimmering image of St. Michael in the dark grotto of 1600, a young man stood, emanating a blinding light. I had to blinked twice to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.
He was olive-skinned and decked from head to toe in shades of cream and white. A diamond-studded clasp closed the lapels of a jacket made out of what seemed to be upholstery fabric; a smaller pin glinted at his throat in place of a tie. While the unhemmed pants billowed out over his cream-coloured boots, a jauntily-held white cane brought my gaze back to ruffled shirt-cuffs peaking out from the jacket sleeves. The whole thing was topped off by a top hat studded with sequins.
Could this be St. Barnum or Bailey, I wondered, or was it a character out of a Savoyard production of Gilbert & Sullivan? The total effect was of a ring-leader at a circus and I watched, tranfixed, to see whether he would pull a rabbit out of his hat.
“Oh my God” I gasped, “It’s the groom!”
Two considertions broke into my mind. What kind of person could have suggested this bizarre outfit and had the young man had to pay for it?
At that moment the bride’s entourage pulled up at the the gate below, cars piling up behind the 10-meter limousine which huffed to a halt at the bottom of the stairs. Out spilled a cresting wave of white tulle.
St. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and this girl must have been a long-standing member of the congregation because the lenses of her glasses were thick as bottle-bottoms. Her father – also dressed in white, but with an interesting shade of purple shirt and tie – helped her out of the car and proudly led her up the stairs. Not to be outdone, her mother wore a red strapless gown while her aunt videoed the procession from behind in a tight-fitting black dress with a striking cleavage. Someone at the top of the steps shouted down to the bride as she bravely navigated the stairs that she was lifting her dress too high for decency…
The riotous assembly regrouped in the sunlit churchyard, as the four-year-old bridesmaid augustly took her place behind the couple and holding the end of veil in her tiny hands.
The statue of Padre Pio, unperturbed by the garish show, calmly blessed everyone as they entered into the shadows of the church.