An Enthroned Goddess’ Ancestor

Annually on September 6, 7, and 8 the town of Grammichele in Catania Province pays homage to Our Lady of the Plan, or the Madonna del Piano. Today, Grammichele is a baroque town with a fascinating hexagonal central piazza that was built after the devastating earthquake of 1693. Its history, however, runs deep. One of my favorite examples of ancient art and the divine feminine, found in the Museo Orsi in Siracusa, is this statue of a enthroned goddess collected from an archeological site outside of Grammichele. Scholars believe that it was created between 490-480 BC, a time, they conclude, when Greek colonizers were intermingling with the native Sicel population. They’ve deduced the existence of such a cultural shift because the statue’s design reflects both contemporary Greek art, while its theme–a mother-child divinity–was representative of the sacred divine feminine of the native population. I have a feeling that the modern townspeople’s devotion to Madonna del Piano is rooted in their ancestor’s devotion to this ancient mother-child divinity… what about you? 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I liked the story and history of this statue. I got stuck at the use of “Piano” and being interpreted as Plan. Very interesting because in music it either refers to a pianoforte, the instrument, or an interpretative instruction to play softly. Is there a Sicilian meaning as well as Italian? Anyway, to your question, I’d say that the devotion is bound to the Madonna, mother-child divinity. My vote! 🙂

    1. “Piano” in Italian has a couple of meanings, and plan is one of them (like floor-plan). I’m not sure about the name Our Lady of the Plan. Meanwhile, pianoforte, as in the instrument and in music… means soft/loud… because the instrument (in contrast to a harpsichord, its keyboard predecessor) could play both softly and loudly, which was very innovative for its day. So, when talking with Italians about the instrument, one has to say pianoforte, otherwise, they won’t know what you’re talking about!

      I’m glad you agree! I think if you asked the locals, they probably would agree too!

  2. Thanks for the tip – I will remember to say “pianoforte” when that is the instrument I’m referring to! As far as piano translating into plan – I’d say that was a good plan. Worked for me!

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