11 June 2011

Some Statues

In Toronto, you can generally tell when the Italians take over a church: the quality of the statuary improves dramatically.  I have an image in my head of an early twentieth century priest, possibly with an Irish accent, having a conversation like this outside the church one day with one of his new, Italian congregation:

Italian:  You need statues. No worry.  I got a paesano back in the old country.  He has a cousin who is very, very good.  He make nice statue.  You see.  You like.  No worry. (Italian walks away)

Priest, pausing,  turning to deacon or altar boy standing beside him:  What's a 'paesano'?

Here are some photos of some statues from St Nicholas of Bari parish.  This parish was actually built by and for the Italians who settled in the area.  Most of the Italians who live around there came from the same area of Italy, (a phenomena known as "chain migration") and the local patron saint of that area of Italy was St Nicholas, who became their patron after Italians stole his bones from Turkey.  Like the Irish before them, they wished to name their church after their patron.  In a side note, the Turks want the bones back.

A note about chain migration, before I continue.  Basically, it's a fairly common phenomena.  A couple of people, typically a family, migrate to the new country.  They write home that they found work, the country is nice, and they can get work for their cousins and friends in the new country.  A few more come, who bring their cousins and friends, and so on.  eventually they set up an association of some kind to help their people on arrival, and to make the transition easy, etc etc.  The "chain" in the migration refers to the links between the people who come over, as opposed to more random forms of migration.

Black Madonna

St Nicholas.
 St Nicholas deserves an extra comment.  This is the St Nicholas, better known the world over as St Nick. or Santa Claus.   Every time I see this statue, richly robed as a bishop, I feel an urge to sneak into the church one night, jimmy open the lock on the case, and exchange the cope and mitre with a red and white suit and cap.  That doesn't make me a bad person, does it?

Padre Pio

St. Antony


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