The Sicilian legend of Colapesce was illustrated beautifully during the 2019 Archi di Pasqua of San Biagio Platani. Colapesce is a hero in Sicilians’ eyes. Born Nicola di Messina, the name Colapesce is rooted in Cola from Nicola and Pesce, fish. Colapesce was nicknamed so because he was an apt swimmer who could hold his breath as he dove deep into the sea. The son of a fisherman, when the 13th century Emperor Frederick II heard of Colapesce’s skills, he had to meet the young man.
Frederick II challenged Colapesce by throwing a goblet, his crown, and eventually a ring into the choppy waters near the Straight of Messina. Colapesce retrieved each one. However, during his dives, Colapesce discovered that Sicily was held up by three columns–one in good condition, a second with cracks in it, and a third (the one under Messina, Catania, and Mount Etna) crumbling. Fearing that Sicily would collapse and fall into the sea if the third column wasn’t reinforced, Colapesce told Frederick that he would remain underwater to support the island himself. To this day, our hero Colapesce is still deep under the sea, holding Sicily up with his strength, and when he moves to adjust himself, that is why we feel the earth move under our feet!