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The Grava Civarola

When a peasant of Castellana would come home late at night after their hard work in the fields, they walked past the Grave*. He or she could glimpse – in the tangle of holm oak branches that even today conceal the opening of the hole – white diaphanous shapes rising slowly and then descending again into the abyss. It was soon rumoured that it was the suicide victims’ restless souls, which – weighed down by sin – could not ascend to heaven.
How was that hideous cavity opened? The people imagined it was a sort of divine retribution, fair punishment for the human wickedness.
It was said that a farmer was crushed in the cave – which suddenly opened under his feet – because he had tried to defraud his blind brother dividing the proceeds from the wheat harvest.
Another story was about a mean local farmer who denied the donation of a bunch of wheat to Jesus Christ, appearing to him in the guise of a friar. It was probably from this legend that the name of Grava Civaròla – the cave of the groceries, civarie, cibarie in Italian – was born.
Also black birds, owls and bats: there was plenty to be afraid of in a world in which the supernatural was intimately connected with the everyday. A social and cultural context in which miracles, magic and reality were hardly distinguishable.

*the Grave is the main cave of the Castellana caves and consists of a huge natural pantheon.


(trad. Maria Chiara Ivone - Tirocinante Unitrieste SSLMIT)



18 Febbraio 2024