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Cerenzia and the legend of the seven-headed dragon

Saturday 04 may 2019

The inhabitants of the ancient Calabrian village are devoted to San Teodoro di Amasea, who defeated the terrible monster in 1528: they dedicated a day of the year to their leader to celebrate his exploit

Cerenzia and the legend of the seven-headed dragon

Some Italian villages hide mysteries that sometimes even the inhabitants themselves are unable to explain and attract the curiosity of tourists, lovers of the unknown and legends. Among these "mysterious" villages there is certainly Cerenzia, an ancient village in Calabria in the province of Crotone, founded by pre-Roman populations. Acerenthia (this is the original name), in fact, was founded by the Enotri or perhaps by Filottete, as claimed by the Greek historian Strabone. It had about seven thousand inhabitants, nine churches and a bishopric, whose remains of the cathedral are still present in the Archaeological Park of the Old Cerenzia. The ancient city takes its name from the river Lese, a tributary of the Neto that originates from Mount Sordillo, more precisely from the eastern side of the Sila plateau.

The Archaeological Park of Akerentia represents one of the greatest expressions of the landscape of the Presila Crotonese, given the excellent conservation conditions and the total absence of invasive elements. The cliff, made up of chalky-sulphurous rocks, presents landslides that are currently subject to various protection proposals, as well as subject to restrictions. Almost in its totality, the cliff has been acquired, to the municipal patrimony of Cerenzia with destination "Archaeological Park".

A demonstration of the attachment of the Cerentinesi with their ancient city there are numerous works, poetic or singing, that authors of the place have written and continue to write. We quote Acherunthia, from Salvatore Lista, master of many generations of Cerentinesi, mayor of the town in the sixties and cultural reference for the cerentinese community, as well as author of various writings. The second, Ruderi, by the poet Teodoro Torchia, teacher, singer and lover of the history of these populations who, despite being born and living in Castelsilano, proudly defines himself as a "thoroughbred Cerentine" due to his origins. Both authors, born in the 1920s, represent the historical memory of Cerenzia.

Making a remarkable historical leap, the fame of Cerenzia is linked to a legend of the sixteenth century that still today distinguishes the centuries-old tradition of the native people. It was the year 1528 and the inhabitants of Cerenzia, were in line at the fountain of the village to take their daily water ration. That day, however, it was not like the others. All of a sudden, in fact, people found themselves facing a seven-headed dragon that spat fire. The cerenzioti in escape they turned to the bishop that said: «That is the redivivo dragon from the seven heads that, around to the thousand, it devoured a Christian to the day for a whole year. An ordinary man can never defeat him. The only one who can succeed is San Teodoro d’Amasea, capable of killing the biggest and most ferocious beast of this world with a single sword stroke».

The statue dedicated to San Teodoro of Amasea

A delegation of inhabitants immediately asked for help from San Teodoro, who agreed to defend the frightened population of Cerenzia with a sword. On November 9, 1528, the cerenzioti, led by the holy leader, went to wake up the dragon in the cave, bringing it out. San Teodoro pierced him in one eye and killed him. Pierni of gratitude, cerenzioti elected San Teodoro protector of the country and, since then, every November 9, the anniversary of his enterprise is celebrated. In the church dedicated first to San Leone and then to San Teodoro of Amasea, there is a painting in which the martyr soldier is represented with the seven tongues of the dragon on his head.

What we have told you is a legend that all Cerentinesi, even the youngest, know, and which still today constitutes a legacy and a link with the old city. The cult of San Teodoro was probably imported from the East (Amasea is a city of Asia Minor) around the 7th-8th century, thanks to the numerous Basilian monks, who at that time had also settled in the territory of Cerenzia. If you go to this beautiful Calabrian village, you will breathe a magical atmosphere, imbued with mystery and devotion to a saint, San Teodoro di Amasea, who in these parts is considered an undisputed idol.

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