history and legends of the “Candelabra” of Catania

Built in 1957, they are part of the historical-mythical heritage of the city. It often happens, especially to those who live in a place, not to know the history of what they see every day. We tell you about it

Piazza Università di Catania is one of the beating hearts of the Etna capital, showing off a series of monuments and sculptures that guard the historical-mythical heritage of the city. They are of great artistic importance the four candlesticks, made in 1957 by Mimì Maria Lazzaro and D. Tudisco.

On the side adjacent to the current “Palazzo San Giuliano” is the sculptural work dedicated to the “Pii brothers”, whose history is well known and appreciated by the local inhabitants. It is said that Anfinomo and Anapia, known as the “Pii brothers”, were citizens of Catania dedicated to working the land.

Legend has it that one day, while they were working in a field with their parents, a powerful eruption occurred that swept along the streets of Catania. The story reports that all the local people fled in panic, hastily collecting everything useful.

The two brothers, on the other hand, rather than running away like everyone else, loaded their father and mother on their shoulders, slowing their pace. At that point, the gods, pitied by the noble action of the young kinsmen, diverted the lava flow to prevent it from overwhelming them.

From this unlikely event derives the name of “Pii”, which, according to some researchers, would refer to the concept of the famous “virgilian pietas”. Furthermore, scholars note in this mythical reconstruction a profound symbolism that binds citizens to the renowned Etna. It is a real feeling that oscillates between awe and deep attachment to the Volcano, considered in the double role of a regenerating entity and, at the same time, an emblem of catastrophes.

Near the University building, on the opposite side, stands the candelabra it depicts Gammazita. Remembered as the beautiful girl from Catania who used to go to the well to collect water, there are rumors that she was spotted by a certain Droetto, a French officer who was madly in love with her. However, being promised to another man, she did not bow to any flattery or flattery of the troublesome suitor who tried to seduce her in every way and without respite.

The story continues reporting that on the day of her wedding, Gammazita, as usual, went to the well but was unexpectedly attacked by the impatient soldier; having no way out and unable to free himself from Droetto’s grip, he decided to throw himself headlong into the deep cavity rather than dishonor his virtue.

As Carmine Rapisarda – scholar of local symbology – says, “The story of Gammazita alludes to all the abuses that the Sicilian people suffered severely during the French rulers, soon becoming the cause of the outbreak of the Sicilian Vespers in March 30, 1282”.

Also adjacent to the University Building is the candlestick dedicated to the exploits of the paladin Uzeta, a fictional character created by the puppeteer Raffaele Trombetta and subsequently adapted by the Catania journalist Giuseppe La Malfa. The mythical tale, little known until today, is the result of an invention that reports the epic battles fought between the so-called Ursini giants, from which the name of today’s Castello Ursino derives, and the army of King Cocalo.

The undisputed hero is the paladin Uzeta, protagonist of the definitive triumph over the giants. The plot also reveals that the future knight, of humble origins, was in love with Galatea, daughter of King Cocalo. The meeting between the two took place on the occasion of a fall from the horse of the princess, who immediately lost consciousness. Uzeta immediately went to her rescue and, taken by enthusiasm, he even dared to kiss her.

The narration continues with the girl who, after regaining consciousness, launches hateful words against the young boy, whom she outrages because he is the son of a groom. The intricate epic ends with the expulsion of the Ursini and the union between Galatea and the paladin, loved by the people for his heroic enterprise.

The last suggestive anecdote concerns the famous Colapesce, a legendary character who boasted great swimming skills. In full symbiotic relationship with the sea, Cola spent whole days hiking on the Messina seabed to recover hidden treasures. Soon his fame reached the court of Frederick II of Swabia, who did not hesitate to travel to Messina to meet him.

Tradition reports that the Swabian emperor subjected it to three tests to ascertain its renowned potential, throwing various objects into the sea: a gold cup, a crown and, according to some sources, even a ring. Cola recovered the first two, but, on the third dive, the skilled swimmer noticed that Sicily was supported by three columns, one of which, precisely that of Capo Peloro, was in danger of being burned by the blazing fire between Catania and Messina. “Even today – continues Professor Rapisarda – in folk tales it is rumored that Cola Pesce has taken the place of that column to support the island”.

“This captivating myth – concludes Rapisarda – clearly implies the sentiment of love that every Sicilian has for their land”.