From the Greeks, the Arabs, the Tamils: the history of the faiths of the world passes from Monte Pellegrino
It does not belong only to the Palermitans and Rosalia Sinibaldi: “the most beautiful promontory in the world” (according to Goethe) was elected as a sacred place by different peoples with different cults
It is the mountain to which we Palermo are most attached. Over the centuries it has had different denominations: The Greeks called it Ercte, for the Arabs it was Gebel Grin (near mountain) or Bulkrin (alteration of Pulgrin) and the Romans named it Mons Peregrinus.
The term Peregrinus, taken from the classical Latin, meant “foreigner” but also “hostile”, “enemy”: the Romans in fact for three years fought the Carthaginians who had barricaded themselves on this mountain making it inaccessible by the enemy’s camps trapped between cliffs , ravines and gullies.
However, this mountain has always been considered sacred. During the Punic period it was the seat of the cult dedicated to Tanit, goddess of fertility.
In the place where the present church that houses the cave of Saint Rosalia stands there was a shrine dedicated to this goddess and traces of Christian worship can be documented over the centuries.
In 1180 the Jurors of the city of Palermo had a chapel built on the mountain, dedicated precisely to Saint Rosalia, near today’s church.
In 1474, during a severe plague afflicting the City, the Senate of Palermo proposed “restoring the now ruined church of Santa Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino etc.”
In the “Topography History and Archeology of Monte Pellegrino” by Vittorio Giustolisi it is clear that on the site were found architectural traces of a small church with an ancient cult of the Madonna and traces “of the existence in the cave of an ancient cult of healthy water that was personified originally in a nymph, later interpreted by a Hellenic deity very similar to the Atena Kronia, from Tanit, from Isis, from the Madonna and finally (indeed) from Santa Rosalia “.
In 1995, some studies by professor Nicola Bonacasa confirmed that on Mount Pellegrino, since ancient times sacred cults were held.
In fact, in a rocky wall of the Valle del Porco, prof. Bonacasa found a Christian graffiti dating back to the Minoan-linear period or to the Neo-Punic period the graffiti has an inscription, translated by prof. Bonacasa who stated: “Be glorified everywhere and always, O God”.
In another graffiti there was an immissed cross (see photo), on a triangle between the letters “I” and “S”: the date of this graffiti dated from the 7th century.
Add to this the fact that the entire area of Addaura in a document dated 16 September 1579 is called Alaura, a probable fusion of the Greek word “laura”: in this area lived Christian monks who lived in a state of semi-hermits.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that after having lived as a hermit in Quisquina, Saint Rosalia chose this mountain, taking refuge in a cave, full of water, next to an ancient altar, first pagan and then dedicated to the Madonna.
Here he lived until his death: on 24 August 1624, the inscription was found on the right wall of the entrance to the small cave: “Ego Rosalia Sinibaldo Quisquine er rosarum domini filia amore d.ni mei Jesus Cristi in hoc antro habitari decrevi”.
Translation “I Rosalia Sinibaldo, daughter of the lord of the Serra Quisquina and the Monte delle Rose, for the sake of my Lord Jesus Christ I decided to live in this cave”.
In the lower part to the left of the writing, on the left, the figure “12” appears, perhaps indicating the years in which the saint lived in that place.
After the discovery of his bones and his appointment as patron of Palermo, the cave was transformed and embellished.
Still today, Mount Pellegrino continues to be a sacred place: the Tamil community, an ethnic group of Indian origin, goes to the mountain every Sunday to visit the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia. One of them told me that they consider it as their sacred site in Sri Lanka: the Kataragama.
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