Sanctuaries, monasteries, Byzantine churches, processions and centuries-old rituals. In our villages, it is possible to take a long journey discovering religious events, which characterise us and which had a very important role in the definition of our history and traditions. Ionian Calabria, our Ionian Calabria, deeply devoted and full of places of worship, boasts a deep relation with Byzantine christianity: here, the history of Rome merged with the one of Byzantium and the Oriental scent merged with the Western one, thus affecting architecture, spirituality, traditions and the folklore of our small piece of land
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In Stilo, one of our most beautiful villages, there is one of the most fascinating churches of all Calabria: the well-known Cattolica di Stilo. It is not an imposing structure, but a small temple, which represents the authentic expression of Byzantine architecture. Its construction dates back to the X century, when the Oriental monks emigrated to Calabria, thus starting an efficient artistic and cultural exchange. Wrapped in a fascinating natural scenario, this church with its Oriental traits stands out for the use of the red colours of the bricks and for the small domes, which dominate the entire facade; the plant respects the one of the model of the Greek cross church, typical of Byzantine art, while, on the inside, it treasures precious frescoes, found owing to the intervention of the archaeologist Paolo Orsi in the XX century. Among these, there are the paintings representing religious life scenes, such as the Annunciation or the Sleeping Virgin Mary.
Another masterpiece, which enriches the artistic and religious heritage of our Calabria is the Certosa di Serra San Bruno, an abbey of Carthusian monks, perfectly embedded in the natural frame of the Serre highland. It is the first Carthusian convent in Italy, founded by Bruno of Cologne in 1090. He wanted a place of peace, wrapped in silence and plunged into uncontaminated nature, which would favour monastic life and meditation: he found it in the territory of ancient Calabria Ulteriore, currently the Natural Regional Park of Serre. Nowadays, Carthusian monks live in seclusion, as their predecessors, but they decided to open a door towards the world, by instituting the Museum of the Certosa. Here, many tourists and pilgrims are welcomed and by means of a guided tour, they can retrace the history of the Saint and get to know the life and daily routine of the monks.
But, let’s not forget that the religious life of our Villages of the Angels generally rolls around these small churches, as the ones dedicated to the patron saints, assiduously attended by the most faithful inhabitants and by the confraternities, representing the immaterial cultural heritage of our centres. Each of these worship sites has a history or a legend to tell and bears witness of a devoted population.
Unusual experiences and fun facts
One of the most important moments of religious life to experience in the villages is undoubtedly the Holy Week. It is the week preceding Easter Sunday, where you can breathe an intense, emotional and captivating atmosphere. The events start on Thursday with the celebration of the last supper and the feet washing, then on Friday, there is the Via Crucis procession and on Saturday, the penitential processions, but the top event takes place on Easter Sunday with the Cunfrunta, the most awaited moment. This celebration ritual takes place in the main streets of the villages and consists in the meeting of the statue of Jesus Christ with the one of the Virgin Mary, carried by the members of the confraternity. A gesture, which generates joy and applauses of the crowds along with the music of the local bands. Attending these centuries-old ceremonies is such a captivating experience that it generates curiosity and interest of the population and of visitors, of worshippers and of disbelievers. As a matter of fact, it is not only a religious celebration, but also a folklore moment, which belongs to the customs and traditions of local life.
But, the perfect summation between folklore and religion is represented by the patron saints feasts. On one or more days of the year, our 7 villages honour the patron saint with spiritual rituals and folklore events, managing to get both the believers and the disbelievers involved. The handicraft stalls are placed next to scented stalls dedicated to the tasting of typical specialties, fireworks shows light up the sky and the musical performance of the local bands bring about a joyful atmosphere. A moment, which enriches the authenticity of these events, is the opening of the doors of the catoj, the cellars where we keep locally produced wine. Here, we share talks, moments of joy, smiles and, of course, some glasses of wine, which bears the scent of our vineyards.
The best period
Those, who wish to visit the Cattolica di Stilo or the small churches, centre of the religious life of our villages, must know that any moment of the year is good to do so. For those, wishing to visit the Certosa di Serra San Bruno and explore the museum, we recommend visiting during in-between seasons, in order to be able to enjoy the beauty and the luxuriance of the majestic surrounding National Park of the Serre Calabresi. For those who wish to experience the religious life of the villages and closely live the captivating spiritual rituals, we recommend not to miss the Holy Week events, preceding Easter Sunday or visiting us during the patron saints celebrations, which occur on the following days: April 23 San Giorgio Martire in Stilo, May 7 Acacio di Bisanzio in Guardavalle, May 12 Sant’Andrea Avellino in Monasterace, August 18 San Floro in San Floro, November 10 Sant’Andrea Avellino in Badolato, November 25 Santa Caterina dello Ionio in Santa Caterina dello Ionio and November 30 Sant’Andrea in Sant’Andrea Apostolo dello Ionio.
La Calabria da visitare tutto l’anno
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