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September 23, 2016

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PAGE 2 POST-GAZE'n'E, SEPTEMBER 23, 2016 r by Prof. Edmund Turiello Nostra A weekly column highlighting some of the more interesting aspects of our ancestry...our lineage...our roots. THE PYRAMIDAL TOMB OF CAIUS CESTIUS The Pyramid of Cestius The Romans used three kinds of burial places. These were pyra- midal tombs, monumental tombs (round, square or rectangular) and cemetaria. The tomb of Cecilia Metella, as described last week, is an excellent example of a round tomb. The pyramidal tombs were introduced to the Romans after the conquest of Egypt. The Egyptian pyramid is actually a royal tomb and its construction was brought about because of a religious influence. The Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death through the immortality of a ghost. They felt it was necessary to preserve the body to enable the ghost to return and retake possession of it at some great time in the future. They also placed a picture or a statue of the de- ceased nearby so that the returning ghost might recognize those features which the dead body had lost. It is this religious belief which caused the Egyptians to mummify their dead and to build these burial places strong enough to last eons. Sixty-five of these pyramids v)ere built in ancient Egypt as monumental tombs for the Pharaohs. Three of the most famous are located at Giza, near Cairo. The oldest of these is the Pyra- mid of Cheops, which dates back to 3733 B.C. Some idea of the magnitude of this great structure is realized when we learn that it covers about thirteen acres and its height is 482 feet. This makes it about as tall as a 48-story building! It is constructed of huge sandstone blocks weighing about 3 tons apiece. More amazing is the fact that the blocks had to be cut from distant quarries and then floated along the Nile in barges. The stones were then dragged up a mile long ramp and into position. History tells us that it required the labor of a 100,000 men for 10 years just to build the ramp from the Nile, and then another 20 years to build the pyramid. What awesome power this Pharaoh must have possessed to command the total efforts of these thou- sands of men' for 30 years in order to build a tomb for himself and his queen. Egyptian pyramids were always built so that the sides faced the four points of the compass. The great pyramid at Giza is laid out so accurately that not more than a fraction of an inch error can be detected even with modem day surveying equipment. The only tomb of this type to be built in Rome is the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, who held a public office known as =tribune~. His selection of a pyramidal-shaped tomb for himself was no chance or frivolous decision. It was born of a deep and abiding respect for the Egyptian people and their religion. Cestius died in 43 B.C., but the structure was not built until 12 B.C. The pyramid is now attached to an old Roman wall and we are told that the builders of the Aurelian Wall took advantage of the bulk of this structure as they did with many other existing structures when constructing the great fortification of Rome during the 3rd century. The height of the Pyramid of Cestius is 117 feet, which is about one-fourth of the height of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. It is faced with blocks of white marble about one foot thick. There is an old Protestant cemetery at the foot of the Pyramid of Cestius which contains the graves of Keats, Shelley and other illustrious men. Next Issue: Castel Sant'Angelo. Public Insurance Adjuster Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS AUTO " HOMEOWNERS s TENANTS COMMERCIAL Experience makes the difference 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 lel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781.284.2200 Free Parking Adjacent to Building L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Michaelmas: When Light and Darkness Meet Two nights ago, my husband helped me bake pumpkin bread. The smell of quintessential au- tumn spices -- cinnamon, nut- meg, cloves -- mingled together in the air as we stirred pumpldn puree, as bright as any Hallow- een decoration, into a sweet mix of flour and brown sugar. The recipe yielded a delicious bread, perfectly moist and studded with chocolate chips for extra richness. However, the pungent aroma and seasonal taste are not the only parts of this bread that I remember, as I also cher- ish the visual memory of mak- ing it. My husband and I baked after the sun had disappeared under the horizon and the last dusky light of the evening dis- sipated. As the kitchen lamp filled our surroundings with a cozy, honeyed glow, the sky outside the window was black and velvety. This combination of fairy-tale darkness outside and the warmth of the kitchen inside wonderfully captured the essence of fall, a season when the longer night hours beckon us indoors and the slight chill of twilight ushers us into the comfort of home and hearth. As the autumn equinox passes, the balance tips in favor of the night and there are more hours of darkness than light. While some may grumble about this, I find that this darkness helps us quiet down, appreciate the cur- i'ent season, and look forward with hope to the return of the light during the winter solstice. Europeans have long been cel- ebrating a holiday that marks this period of transition-- Mich- aelmas -- and it continues to wield inspiration even today. Michaelmas occurs on Sep- tember 29th, and it is the feast day of St. Michael the Arch- angel. In his iconography, St. Michael often appears holding scales, and dur!ng his feast day the scales are particularly reminiscent of the balance be- tween light and dark that char- acterizes the period around the autumn equinox. Indeed, Mich- aelmas celebrations acquired a seasonal quality throughout Europe, and served as harvest festivals marked by special dishes. Roast goose forms the backbone of the English Mich- aelmas, where superstition dic- tates that whoever eats goose on this feast day will enjoy money all year long. Carrots, an au- tumnal root vegetable, were in- stead the food of choice among medieval Scots on Michaelmas, along with oat cakes known as bannocks. Italy also abounds with Michaelmas traditions and lore. There, St. Michael's Day, or il Giomo di San Michele l'Arcangelo, functions as the gateway to fall, a harbinger of colder weather, darker nights, and the start of the school year. Numerous proverbs,, left over from the agricultural past, speak to the importance of St. Michael's Day as a seasonal milestone in Italy. The adage San Michele, l'uva ~ come il miele means that grapes are as sweet as honey on St. Michael's Day, since the holiday occurs during the time when Italians harvest the ripened grapes from their vineyards. Another dictum states that a San Michele, il calore va in cielo, which when translated literally says that the heat departs for the sky on by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Michaelmas -- in other words, breaking through the darkness cooler weather begins now. forms the symbolic backbone These customs and proverbs of upcoming winter holidays remind me that in Italy saints' that feature candles or honor days are deeply woven into the the rebirth of the sun, such as tapestry of everyday life, imbu- Advent, St. Lucy's Day, Hanuk- ing farming and weather with a kah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and deeper resonance. They make New Year's Eve. Michaelmas, me think of the small white therefore, taps into a primordial church dedicated to St. Michael desire in the human conscious- in my father's hometown of ness as it expresses the simul- Sulmona, a center of commu- taneous need for darkness and nity that embodies much of the hope for a shining future. homey essence of this holiday. Autumn provides us with a As a seasonal turning point, whole calendar of celebrations Michaelmas grants us the op- as well as lovely images to mark portunity to respect and hon- the season. Bright red and or the darkness of autumnal orange leaves swirl down from nights. Though I sometimes find treetops like celestial feath- the early nighttime of the fall ers, carpeting the ground in a to be spooky, I also appreciate mosaic of multihued patterns. it for the unique insights it af- The harvest of crops like apples fords and its place in the cycle of and pumpkins not only remind the year. When shadowy skies us of the Earth's abundant summon me indoors, I seize on bounty, but also inspire people the chance to develop my hobby to joyfully express gratitude in of baking, making the most of the forms of fairs and apple- fall's produce as I stand in my picking excursions. However, golden, warm kitchen. As my while we are often quick to home brims with the flavors revel in the pleasures of foliage of the season, from tart apples and pumpkin patches, we often to creamy pumpkins to juicy treat dark autumn nights with pears, I am thankful to provide disdain. A new perspective will such comfort food to my loved let us see the many benefits the ones. I even have a special short days of fall have to offer. Michaelmas recipe -- soft and This darkness encourages us to spicy gingersnap cookies -- as seek the company of family and ginger is connected to the medi- friends, to spend time develop- eval celebrations of this holiday ing our interests, and to reflect and frequently lined the stalls on the things for which we are of harvest fairs that dotted the the most grateful. It opens our countryside of olden Europe. eyes to the mysteries of the The autumnal darkness also world. Moreover, it makes us instills in me a love of mystery, appreciate the light, which we a longing for the lure of the often take for granted. The unexplained, and the indelible holiday of Michaelmas reflects feeling of telling spooky stories this balance between light and and eerie legends around a dark and, through its myriad crackling fire. How different symbolic connotations in Italy would Halloween celebrations and elsewhere, teaches us that be without the sense of shiver- both are necessary components ing anticipation and wonder of of the year's enduring journey. the unknown that accompany So let us take these lessons of long, dark nights! Michaelmas to heart, and find Finally, the dim fall evenings peace in the darkness as we give me a renewed appreciation yearn for the light. for the light. I relish every bit of Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is autumn sunshine, particularly a Graduate Student in History at day's close, when the last at the University of Massachu- gilded rays of sun shine through setts Boston. She appreciates the colorful leaves, crafting any comments and suggestions them into a kaleidoscope of about Italian holidays and folk- fiery hues. This desire for light lore at Matt6o Gallo Appraisals Sales & Rentals Real Estate 376 North Street * Boston, MA 02113 (617) 523-2100 Fax (617) 523-3530