translations by Peter Patti
Hybla was founded about 3500 years ago. The name derives probably from Hibla, godness of love. Not accidentally, our ancestors were mishapprensive of war and dedicated themselves to the work on the fields. Different dominations influenced the town during many centuries. Above all, the Greeks, whose “chanting” way to speak is to find again in our pronunciation. From the Greeks we also inherited the abhorrence of crime and of gratuitous violence and the preference to act alone instead of joining with other people. The bad luck of ancient-days-Hybla was to be situated in a bloodwet land, just between Syracuse and Kamarina, two warmonger powers at the time of the Phoenician Wars. After the Greeks came the Romans, who made our country poor. Then the Byzantines, who were in eternal fight against Barbarians, Franks and Saracens. (One of the darkest periods in our history.) Fortunately, in 866, the Arabians came to Hybla and they brought prosperity. Though people were against these new invaders at first, it was the Arabians who let flourish trade, arts and education; not only in Hybla but on whole Sicily. Under the Normans the Island likely achieved its highest stage of development. The Normans loved our country like their own homeland... Seemingly the Hybleans did’t ever offer much opposition against the invadeers, and with the time our attitude didn’t become different. Only in 1282 broke out a revolt in Hybla against the French Angevins. This revolt is known as The Sicilian Vespers. At once a fearsome cry arose in the streets of our town: “Mora, mora” (“Death! Death!”).
Track 6 – The Queen of Cyprus
Going back at the turn of the First Millennium, there is an old legend that speaks about the Queen of Cyprus, who was very beautiful and very powerful. She fell in love and asked her father, Count Roger, for not got married to the king to whom she had been promised. Her pray was not heard, and so she let build a cloister in Hybla: St. Maria di Valverde. She entered this monastery and lived there until her death. She even wished that her remains were buried in the small churchyard beneath the monastery... Since then, it’s said that who has an unhappy lovestory should go into the Church of St. Thomas (built over the ruins of the small monastery church) if he/she wants to find relief for his/her woes – as if the gentle hand of a mother would caress the sorrowful heart.
Track 8-9 – Henry VI and the Iron Crown / Lyke-wake for Count Guglielmo
Henry VI of the Holy Roman Empire (November 1165 - September 28, 1197) was King of Germany 1190-1197, and Holy Roman Emperor 1191-1197. He was the son of Frederick I or Frederick Barbarossa and of Beatrice of Burgundy, Barbarossa’s second wife. Henry married Constance of Altavilla (or of Sicily) in 1185. Constance was the posthumous daughter of Roger II of Sicily by his third wife Beatrice of Rethel. Her elder nephew was William II, King of Sicily. As William II died in 1189, Henry VI claimed the thron of Sicily, Constance being in her own right the Queen, but most of the Sicilian nobles, lead by Tancred of Lecce, opposed to him. Henry, skilfully winning over Pisa, Genoa and the Roman Commune, isolated Tancred and intimidated Pope Celestine III, who, on April 14, 1191, crowned him emperor at Rome. During the crowning celebration Henry was insolent and rude: he didn’t get on the steps keeping the head low and didn’t kneel in front of the Pope as required by the tradition, he didn’t held the bridles of Celestine’s horse... His insolence went so far that he said to the Pope that he was the Emperor, not the equerry. Then he sat at the honour place and put the crown on his head with his own hands. After the crowning Henry headed for Southern Italy to unite Sicily, but the pest devastated his military strenght: because of the plague, his troops fell by the thousands. He decided to go back to Germany and put down in blood a feudal rebellion (1194). In the same year he headed again for Italy, overran Southern Italy and triumphantly entered Palermo. Sibilla, wife of the dead King Roger and who had took the regency for their young son William III, was forced to recognize Henry as the new king.
Henry VI was a ferocious and cruel man: he treated laymen and clericals as enemies, accusing them of conspiracy and torturing them barbarously. As for the royal family, Henry first sent little William to Germany, then he left imprison Sibilla and her daughters in Alsace. Also William’s uncle, Count Richard of Acerra, back from a crusade, was imprisoned.
A new revolt broke in 1196. Jordan, a noble man and presumably a friend of Constance, led the rebels. It was another bloodshed. Jordan was caught and a crown of nails was driven into his head. In 1197 took place another rebellion. This time Henry VI exceeded with his cruelty: he spread violence and death everywhere: ruthless and bloody suppressions, mass executions. His hangmen had a lot to do: hanging, setting fire, blinding...
During the siege of Castrogiovanni in the near of Messina, Henry died of intestinal infection. Maybe his wife Constance poisoned him.
Track 10 – The Sad Princess
A long-haired, white-haired woman leaned on the bannister at the feet of the majestic San Giorgio stairway. She was in Hybla since about a year. Nobody knew who she was, where she came from or how long she would stay. Someone had asked her out but she answered only with a smile. That smile! It exuded the warmth of summer or – according to the opinions of others – the coldness of the northern glaciers. Don Neli u quartararu, a man who had travelled a lot, sweared that she was positively the Baroness of Palermo – a woman whose husband had thrown her out of their mansion because she had smiled to a Garibaldian soldier with too much cheer, too much fire. Other persons affirmed that this woman was a Saracen mother: hundred years ago her only son had left for Sicily; she had waited till now before going in search for him... During an evening in December, the woman suddenly disappeared. Many years later a story-teller came to Hybla and he narrated the story of a princess: the King of England offered her the command over the seas but she declined; the same happened to the King of Spain, to whom she refused the American dominions and three caravels loaded with gold. The princess had only a wish: the love of a man. A fisherman from Ognina illuded her, but she left him when she saw him harpooning a dolphin; one day she met a Sardinian sheepman who loved his herd and sang to the moon, but he wasn’t interested in dance and poetry and so she was alone again. At the end she felt too tired to seek on, she stayed for a year in a hamlet on a hill. And there she freed her tears of sorrow.
The Chiaramontes bound their destiny to the county for good 93 years, from 1300 to 1392. Theirs was a dynasty of generous and almost-to-rashness-bold men who loved our Hybla – except for a few of them. In the year 1300 Manfredi united the dominions of Modica and Ragusa into a single feudal realm. He was succeeded by Giovanni who, alas, could not attend to the interests of the county because he was too busy with revenge (he wanted to wash a heavy insult from the Earl of Ventimiglia). The fourther Earl was Simone who, poisoned by a quarrelling with the Alagona family, spent most of his time making war. His wife Venezia waited for him - in vain - all the best years of her life. Andrea, the last of the Chiaramontes, was the only Sicilian patriot who withstood the Spaniards, and he was condemned to death. Andrea’s head was put into an iron cage hanging from a facade of Palazzo Steri. The Palermitan people seemed to have forgotten that Andrea had regularly donated grain to them: they laughed about the fact that his head aroused in the heights while his body was entoumbed in the earth. The Ragusans bemoaned the end of the Chiaramontes. Infact, the Chiaramontes never oppressed the Ragusan people; on the contrary they loved them and had often given out much money to improve the semblance of the town.
Track 15 - Giovinastro and Lucsìa
One evening I was walking on the Specula ascent road in search of Gian Battista Odierna emotions (he had installad his astronomic telescope, or “specula”, on that just road for watching the skies. I tried to revive his enthusiasm, his cry of joy when he discovered a new astral object... but I could only hear a far, strange dripping coming from a fountain. Suddenly I remembered that many years ago, in the same place, Giovanni Occhipinti and Giuseppe Bonaviri had heard the same noise of dripping water: it was like if a mysterious presence wanted to materialize. Occhipinti sensed that it was the precence of Giovinastro and Lucsìa, two unlucky lovers of a folksy legend. The legend said that Giovinastro and Lucsìa put an end to their life in the Specula ascent road. The small fountain with its strange waterdripping had instantly brought to my mind the scene of that unhappy love, a love so strong and so aching beautiful.
Track 13 – An Afflicted Parent
The lyrics of this song derive from the epigraph carved on the tombstone of a child’s grave. It’s called Epigraph of Aithales. This inscription represents one of the sweetest externalizations of mourn of the Ancient World. We find here the obedience to God’s Will but no real resignation. The stone has transported the feelings of that afflicted parent to us through thousands of years and we feel the deep pain of this mourning person very near to us. Because of such witnesses of timeless humanity we love our land - this land of endless suffering and unlimited love.
Track 20 - Bernardo Cabrera
The Chiaramonte family was succeeded in the County of Modica by another noble House: the Cabreras. The founder of the House of Cabrera was Bernardo, more famous for his glorious war deeds than for the high dignities he was invested with. Bernardo’s name is written in the history books because of his ambitious dream to become King of Sicily. He married the fair Bianca of Navarra, the widow of King Martin I.
Tracks 21,22 – Conspiration Against the Jews / The Hunt
In the year 1474 Modica was the place of a horrible massacre born out of racist hatred. 360 human beings, children and adults, young and old, men and women, with the only sin to be Jews, were terribly murdered.
Track 23 - Gian Battista Odierna
He was born in Hybla, near the Church of Purgatorio. Strolling down through the small Fiumicello Valley it’s still possible today to visit the ruins of the ancient Church of Spirito Santo, which crashed about the end of last century. Behind those ruins, proceeding toward the side of the mountain, we meet the remaining stones of a small house, where – it’s said – G.B. Odierna first saw the light of the world. He was still very young in 1618 as he asked, and got, permission to live on in a cubicle into the campanile of the San Nicolò Church (now San Giorgio Church) and to install in the small cupule his optical instrument to watch the skies. On 12th December of the same year Odierna discovered three new comets, whose course was also followed by the greatest astronomers of that time. In 1622 he became priest. His interests in the most various subjects are attested by his writings in Latin and Italian. He wrote about the stars, the flowers, honey and bees, the eyes of the flies, the ants’ antennas, the clouds. He is also the author of an astrological calendar; apparently he foresaw the earthquake calamity of 1693. Gian Battista Odierna died in Palma in 1660.
Track 24 – The Earthquake
The evening of Juanuary 9th, 1693, whlile the houses switched off the lights one after one before the well-deserved sleep, an exceeding noise, and a rumble of thunder from afar, advanced with unprecedented power. Crazy with fear, the thousands of inhabitants of Hybla run in the streets; they spent the night outside although it was cold. Finally, as God designed, the sun rose. The Hybleans had felt terrible fear but nobody has been seriously harmed. Little by little the town limped back to normality. About five o’clock in the evening of Sunday, Juanuary 11th, people strolled on the promenade talking about the great fright they had had. The air was mysteriously motionless, hounds barked, the sky was dramatically dark, but noone seemed to notice it. On the contrary: they talked, laughing at each other, and praised the Lord. Suddenly the earth trembled again, with a longer and more fierce jerkinesses this time. After the eartquake there were 5000 people dead, that is the half of the population. The wonderful Middle-Age town of Hybla, with its 28 churches, 22 nobiliary palaces, and the towering huge castle, did exist no more.