José F. Grave de Peralta
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Watercolors : Is Rome a "watercolor" city?
The cathedral of Trani in the Italian region of Puglia was built on top of a small,
previously existing shrine dedicated at the end of the 1000s to St. Nicholas the
Pilgrim (San Nicola il Pellegrino), the patron saint of this beautiful Adriatic port.
Nicola's relics are kept in a coffer under the shrine's altar. Medieval legends, not
unlike those of Arion (CLICK) in Greek mythology, tell of a young Christian pilgrim
from Tyre, whose ship capsized on the way to Italy, causing the young man to
almost drown, had it not been for a dolphin that miraculously brought him to safety
onto the shores of Trani. According to the stories, Niccola would go around the city
singing "Kyrie eleison" (Lord have mercy) and giving gifts to children. Only a few
months later, however, he took ill and died, but soon the aura of his story with the
dolphin and several miracles attributed to him won him his halo .
The monastery of La Colonna one of of Trani's most lovely capes was the home of a
small community of Benedictine monks back in the years 1000's. The architecture of
this and other Tranian buildings dating back to those times reflects the style of the
Norman dukes and lords who had invaded Italy (Puglia) at that time -- with a
mixture of Greek and Middle Eastern characteristics as well. In the 1400s, the
monastery housed a wooden crucifix that had bled, according to the area histories,
when a Saracen corsaire had struck it with his sword in disbelief.
The present sindaco (mayor) of Trani, Dr. Giuseppe Tarantini, stopped to chat with
me when I was barely beginning to pencil in the above watercolor of Sant Andrea
Church, during my recent sketching trip to Puglia. The mayor kindly informed me
that the church was originally named Santa Trinità (Holy Trinity) and that the
temple's three cupolas numerically signified this kinship of Father-Son-Holy Spirit by
the fact that the form of the first was a 4-sided polygon, that of the second an
octagon, and the third a dodecahedron.