"...Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul". The letter found in the church of Saint Paul in Baltimore, Canada 1962, is a legendary symbol of wisdom occurred to me while I entered the Basilica Pontificia of Saint Vito, Forio mother church, on Sunday May 15th at 9 o'clock.
Forio is the most large municipality of the island of Ischia, stretches on 13 km and the second one for inhabitants (17 thousand) after the town of Ischia. Wladimiro Frenkel in his work "Nuova Guida dell'isola d'Ischia" in 1934 defined 'Second capital city of the island' after the commercial wine town for farming based on wine production and its rich story.
The church of Saint Vito is the most important of the 19 churches of Forio. This church was embellished for 50 years by my father Francesco (1900-1977) and before him, my grandfather Giuseppe (1873-1956) on the occasion of the festivity of Saint Vito from June 14th to 16th. I enter for the first time with precursors' burden and image my father who goes up the large wood ladder to place the damask arras while the priest, Mons Giuseppe Regine, 83 years old, celebrates the holy Mass, which today includes the performance of the psalm 23 by Davide, maybe the prayer that joins all monotheist religions: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul..." It's a real intense emotion.
The church of Saint Vito, placed on the most high part of the built up area is the Basilica Pontificia since 1988 and the origins are very ancient. A document dating 1306 recognizes the inhabitants of Forio as owners of the church. It was widen at the early of XVII century and totally restructured between 1730 and 1750 by the 'Università di Forio', that is the city hall.
The monumental façade was finished in the second half of the XIX century. Inside, three aisles with a rich stucco decoration realized by Francesco Starace during the second half of the XVIII century, rich in many works of art both of sculpture and painting, like those by Cesare Calise and Alfonso Di Spigna. At the entrance near the font there is the tombstone to remember the Mons. Giovanni Regine baptism, archbishop of Trani, on January 25th 1856 and that one placed in 2003 on the occasion of the XVII centenary of Saint Vito's martyr. Also Saint Vito like Saint Restituta is one of the first martyrs of Christianity. He died at the age of 15 because of his Christian faith under the reign of Diocletian. Ha was born in Sicily, in Mazara del Vallo but grew up his short life in Campania, Salerno, brought by his predecessors Hila and Crescentia. He was a thaumaturge and later his death, his cult extended in whole Christianity. The Cathedral of Praga is consecrated by Saint Vito. Mons. Giuseppe Regine, priest of Saint Vito for 42 years, peasant's son, professor of Storia della Chiesa al Seminario di Salerno, where among his students, we find the actual archibishop Metropolita of Naples, Card. Crescenzo Sepe. He tells me – at the end of the holy Mass in sacristy – about 54 countries called Saint Vito, whose 11 consider Saint Vito own patron, like Forio. The cult of Saint Vito is enshrouded with mystery from time out of mind showing the deep Christian roots of the island of Ischia. Inside this church you can feel the ancient times of the human being story, populated by persons that lived on farming and fishing.
The most important work in this church is the St. Vito statue in silver and copper of 1787, by Neapolitan goldsmiths, Del Giudice and Giuseppe Santmartino. The work was realized by Università di Forio placed a tallage on the wine drunk in dives. It's the statue brought during the procession on Wednesday June 15th , on the Forio ways while on Tuesday June 16th the statue goes by sea on board a ship with fold and clergy – for 20 years – from the port of Forio up to Punta Zaro and returning to the port. It seems a particular blessing of the patron for every quarter, corner and street. A crown of flower thrown into the sea to remember the 'foriani', travelers sea fallen.
Emilio Amalfitano, president of festivity committee, announces two performances of firework, the first on Wednesday June 15th at 24,00, by Romano and Di Sarno brothers, and the second one at the same time on Tuesday June 16th by Alfonso Lieto from Mugnano and placed on the wharf representing the most important event, the long-awaited moment by foriani and many Italians and Foreigners.
From June 14th to 16th three evenings host concerts in square, and a festival for young singers on June 13th with the final prize 'Palma d'argento di San Vito' in Piazza Municipio.
After the festivities Mon. Giuseppe Regine manages the religious activities and the solemn moment of the Holy Mass celebrated by the bishop of Ischia, Mons. Filippo Strofaldi, on Wednesday June 15th. At 8 o'clock he is already in church to pray and see fold. Among 36 priests of Diocese, he is the most discreet and 'happy to be in this way!'
He explains: 'The sound is not good, while the good is without sound'. It's his teaching with example, to me the last emotion.