Well the big pirate party is this Thursday and we thought it is the perfect occasion to explain. . .
A very frequently asked question is "Is there pirate treasure in that church?"
The answer to this is actually no. However there is history of pirates presence in Monterosso the skeletal embellishments are not related to pirates. The oratory is the church of the black Fraternity, which in short was the Fraternity of the poor, the farmers and the fishermen and acted like the first Red Cross of Italy serving to take care of the sick and give a descent funeral and burial to those who could not afford it. Thus, the church is dedicated to life and death. The skeletons are representations of the biblical 8th day or the life of man. Each skeleton represents anything that man could become in his life from a fishermen to captains and bishops to the pope, yet at the end of life all men must face the judgment of the same God.
|Embellishment in the oratry representing man as an Archishop.|
No, the pirate party is not a result of the extreme popularity of The Pirates of the Caribbean. It is something that has been going on for years in Monterosso especially between Monterosso and Vernazza and commemorates the historical pirate raids on the villages. The most well known pirate attack on Monterosso was the attach of the blood hungry Algerian pirate Dragut. One morning in 1545 he attacked Monterosso with 20 vessels. Usually the Monks that lived in Sant'Antonio on Punta Mesco known to be the highest point in Monterosso lit a bonfire to signal the arrival of pirates to the village below. This gave time for the villagers take refuge in the higher-up castle, which is now the cemetery. For some reason the Monks did not get the fire lit in time and the population of Monterosso was only able to close themselves in, what they thought was, safely in the church. However, Dragut and his pirates broke in the windows captured women, men and children, and burnt the church down. The date of this tragedy is recorded on the highest white stripe with the date 1595 and other writing that the family who rebuilt the church wrote in memory of the tragedy.
The captured villagers were taken to La Spezia where the pirates held them ransom. If ransom was not paid women and children were taken away and used by the pirates. Men were used specifically as rowers and some even became Muslim and remained pirates to have a better life, returning years later Some women that were returned upon ransom were returned pregnant mixing the races.
The pirate party is now celebrated in July or August. Everyone dresses up as pirates with bandanas, cut offs, dirtied faces and girls in gypsy-like long skirts. The boys take a boat from Vernazza and plan an attack on Monterosso and the girls that vulnerably wait on the beach. Once the fire and firecracker shooting boats and 'pirates' land a summer beach party commences. Both the people from Monterosso and Vernazza really look forward to this tradition.
*Information about the pirates thanks to Lillo local hardware store owner and passionate historian.