The history of San Paolo Albanese
The settlement seems to date back to 1534 and the first document in which the place name of Santo Paulo appears is from 1541.
It was later given the name of Casalnuovo di Noya, which it retained until the first half of the 19th century.
During the Fascist period it temporarily assumed the name of Casalnuovo Lucano and in 1962, with a D.P.R., the name was definitively changed from Casalnuovo Lucano to San Paolo Albanese (Albanian, as an attribute because it was built by Albanians in the first half of the 16th century). The inhabitants of San Paolo Albanese are still strongly attached to their history and therefore still maintain various customs and traditions of their original 'arbëreshe' culture.
A magical place waiting to be discovered
San Paolo Albanese seems almost like an enchanted place, where time has stood still. The historic centre of the small village is characterised by terraced houses, almost fitting one inside the other, with a common wall structure made of stone and poor mortar, bearing witness to the architecture of the past. The buildings of the nobility, dating from the 18th century, have a different architectural structure and distribution of space.
In addition to these buildings, there are also other interesting historical constructions, such as the Blumetti and Affuso mills and the kiln in Giansilvio. The village of San Paolo Albanese is rich in master craftsmen who work in stone, wood and wicker, not to mention the skilful hands of those who make dolls wearing traditional Albanian costumes.
Finally, the 'Museum of Arbëreshe Culture' houses the characteristic elements of the culture of the ethnic-linguistic minority that settled in this territory in the 16th century. It is both a historical testimony and a cultural workshop.
Inside, visitors can fully immerse themselves in the culture that gave life to the village of San Paolo Albanese, wandering among testimonies of life, customs and traditional uses. Visitors can observe ancient objects that are still part of everyday life and discover the art of working with broom, a plant that in ancient times was processed to produce the fabrics used to make traditional "arbëreshe" clothes.
San Paolo Albanese and the dishes not to be missed
The gastronomic tradition of San Paolo Albanese is strongly linked to the land and the typical peasant dishes, poor and simple, consist of genuine and tasty flavours. The bread, still homemade with natural leavening, goes perfectly with local cold meats and cheeses. As for first courses, the "shtridhëljat", a dish of fresh, handmade pasta, shines, while main courses are almost always prepared with kid or lamb meat.
Desserts are also typical, especially at Christmas and Easter, including 'pettula', a kind of crepe with a sweet or savoury filling, cooked on a hot stone, and 'nusëza', a doll made from 'Easter bread' (kuljaç) dough for children.
Surroundings immersed in nature
San Paolo Albanese stands on a very privileged spot, overlooking the valley where the Sarmento river flows.
The entire territory of San Paolo lies in the heart of the 'Pollino National Park' and there are panoramic viewpoints from which the five peaks of the Pollino can be admired.
The panoramic views offered by the small village allow you to appreciate really suggestive glimpses; exploring the Capillo Wood you can get in touch with an uncontaminated nature.
On Mount Carnara, from the second half of May until the end of June, it is possible to admire "Banxhurna ka Karnara", the red-purple peony of popular sayings, and it is no coincidence that a popular song from the village reads: "these girls of ours, dressed up like gentlewomen, with cheeks as red as pomegranate seeds, like peony on a mountain" (in the Arbëreshe language: këto vashasitë e tona çë na undruan si xhinduldhona, faqe kuqe si koqe sheg, si banxhurna tek një breg).
The area around San Paolo Albanese is rich in broom bushes and wild plants that accompany visitors along magical nature trails and beautiful fountains where they can stop to cool off and take a break from their walk.
Religion, Christian Catholic of Byzantine rite, is another element that strongly characterises the small village of San Paolo Albanese. The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, embellished with icons, seems to have been built in the 18th century on a pre-existing religious building, as was the 17th-century Chapel of San Rocco, which contains several frescoes.
The mysticism of the Byzantine rite is better expressed with icons than with statues, but the mixture of rites over the centuries has meant that processions with statues are held in San Paolo Albanese. On 16 August, the festivities dedicated to the patron saint, San Rocco, take place; they move in front of the statue in procession, Himunea, the votive trunk, carried on the shoulder and made from ears of soft and hard wheat, and the Scythe Dance.
Municipality of San Paolo Albanese
Province of Potenza
Inhabitants: 232 sanpaolesi
Altitude centre: 800 m.s.l.m.
Via A. Smilari, 19 - Tel. 0973 94367
II marriage is the religious and civil ceremony, which retains the greatest charm of the St. Paul Albanian tradition. It was and is held with a special ceremonial, typical of the ethnicity of origin.
Two weeks before the wedding invitations are made to the guests. The Thursday before the wedding the bride and groom's bed is prepared. In earlier times there was a week completely devoted to the wrapping of cakes, to be offered on the wedding day.
One of the special aspects of the wedding, borne by the bride's family, is the preparation of the "Bride's Taral - Taralj i qethur," which is eaten during the religious ceremony. In the past, on the afternoon of Thursday, after viewing the bride's trousseau and preparing the bed, the groom's and bride's vallja, processions of women dressed in Arbëresh gala dress, would go around the village singing (kurrëxhinën).
On the morning of the wedding, guests went to the groom or the bride, respectively, for refreshments. Pouring wine to the guests and doing the honors, the guests will find a spouse who, resting on his left shoulder, will have a white fringed tablecloth and in his hands a large earthenware jug (kartuçia).
From the bride's house departs the procession of guests to pick up the groom. The procession augmented later by the groom's guests returns to the bride's house. It will be the bride's father who welcomes the future son-in-law by asking him the question, "Do nuse o skëmandilj?" (Do you want the bride or the dowry?). A welcome and well-accepted answer is, "Donja nusën e skëmandiljin!" (The bride and the dowry!).
A spouse of the groom enters the house to invite the bride to follow him, simulating a rat, since her place is in the new family. The bride and groom leave separately; only at the threshold of the church will the bride take the groom's arm, to which the first best man will untie a shoe, which will be re-tied at the end of the ceremony. On the threshold, where the priest awaits them, with two lit candles, they will say their "yes" in the presence of the officiant and witnesses (always in odd numbers: three, five,...). During the religious service, in the Byzantine rite, very suggestive and symbolic is the part of the exchange of the rings (the Arbëreshë bride and groom offer their right hand to the wedding ring), with the recitation of the auspicious formula: "Rrofshi, ljuljëzofshi e më mos u martofshi" (Live long, bloom and more do not marry) and of the placing on the heads of the bride and groom of wreaths of flowers, which are crossed, as well as the real nuptials, three times by the priest and witnesses. The crown is something that completes, perfects, gives splendor and glory. Each of the bride and groom receives the other as a crown, that is, as perfection, completion, splendid adornment.
As a sign of the new union, the priest hands to the bride and groom, a piece of the "Bride's Taralji - Taralji i qethur," and wine they drink from the "common chalice," which is immediately afterwards shattered, as a symbol of total and exclusive eternal fidelity.
This is followed by a proper liturgical dance, called the "Dance of Exultation," in which the priest, the bride and groom and the witnesses, starting from the central location move down the left side aisle and back through the center aisle, a testimony and symbol of the long journey of life in Christ, which the new family is called upon to give before all the people, illuminated by the light of faith (the candles) and with the support of religion (the priest).
On leaving the church, the wedding procession makes its way to the groom's house, where nusja (the bride) is welcomed by her mother-in-law with the recitation of a poem (kënkën) in rhymed couplets, prepared for the occasion. Traditional celebrations, until a few decades ago, included, on the night of the wedding eve, serenading the bride to the sound of bagpipes; currently other instruments are also used.
The wedding is one of the most evocative and enthralling moments in the Arbëreshe tradition, in which the whole country participates, and it is, also, one of the important occasions when Albanian women wear the gala dress and crown the bride and groom.
- Banxhurna ka Karnara, the reddish-purple peony of folk sayings, native to southern Europe and neighboring Asian regions;
- It is said that in long ago and distant times newborns were taken to Mount Carnara, held up on their arms, so that they could see the Ionian Sea from which their ancestors had come, while their mothers sang a sweet and nostalgic song Moj e bukura More (Oh beautiful Morea).
- Also curious is the account the elders give of the Shala Sabbath (and shtunja Shales), according to which on this night it is possible to see the dead re-entering their world, after the week of commemoration dedicated to them, in which they enjoyed the freedom, granted by the Lord Jesus, to cohabit with the living, albeit in a condition of invisibility, by lighting a candle made of human earwax.