Works Set to Music by Vincenzo Bellini (Senior)
(Taken from an old probably contemporary manuscript)
born 1744 at Torricella
lived in Catania from 1768 to 1829.
Grandfather of the Great Master with the same name.
1st The salvation of Istraello (Israel) by the death of Sisara (Sarah)
Sacred action to be sung by four voices and more instruments in the Church of San Nicola l’Arena in Catania for the solemn ceremony of the Most Holy Nail, dedicated to D. Filippo Hermandez. Verses by Domenico Gioacchino Cavarretta. Catania 1789 Pages 24.
2nd The Sacrifice of Elias
Oratorio to be performed in the Church of San Nicola d’Arena, for the solemn ceremony of the Most Holy Nail, dedicated to Father D. Filippo Hermandez. Verses by Giovanni Lazio. Catania 1791. In octavo pages 23.
3rd The Transport of the Relics of S. Agata from Constantinople to Catania
Oratorio. Verses by Giuseppe La Rosa. Catania 1797. In octavo pages 12.
4th The Three Hebrew Boys Freed from the Furnace
Drama for music to be sung in the Piazza degli Studi, to celebrate the transport of the relics of S. Agata from Constantinople to Catania, as D. Gaetano Tedeschi e Gravina is a patrician. Verses by Pietro Russo; Catania 1798. In octavo, 12 pages.
5th Moses the Liberator
Oratorio to be sung in the Piazza degli Studi on 17th and 18th August of this year, 1801, to celebrate the transfer of the Virgin S. Agata from Constantinople to Catania. Verses by Giovanni Sardo, Catania 1801. In octavo, 11 pages.
6th Transport of Jacob’s Bones
Dramatic essays to be sung in the Piazza degli Studi on the occasion of the solemnisation of the transport of S. Agata under the management of Don Pietro Domenico Tedeschi, Bonadies e Riccioli baron of Villaorsa and Castel di Oscino. Verses by Giuseppe La Rosa. Catania 1805. In octavo, 12 pages.
7th The Victory of Gideon
Oratorio to be sung in the Piazza degli Studi by the entire Kingdom to celebrate the glorious transferral of the Holy Body of the Virgin S. Agata from Constantinople to Catania. Verses by Paolo Strano. Catania 1808. In octavo, 12 pages.
Translator’s Notes :
 S. Nicolò l’Arena – San Nicolò l'Arena or San Nicola l'Arena is a monastic complex in the historic centre of Catania, comprising an important Benedictine Monastery and a Church that is a monument of the 16th Century. This grandiose monastery was built by Benedictine Fathers – one of the wealthiest and most powerful orders in the city – between the 16th and 18th century; the façade of the imposing church alongside it, unfortunately remains incomplete. Inside the grand church, behind the altar, on the transept floor is a world-famous Meridian.
Originally the Monastery was founded in the second half of the 12th Century high on the slopes of Etna where they built a Chapel and a rest-home for sick monks from the nearby monasteries of Santa Maria di Licodia e San Leone di colle Pannacchio near Paternò. Since various small cells were forming, Frederick III of Aragon decided to build a Monastery there and it became the main seat of all the cells and was named San Nicolò la Rena both because the monks were devoted to that Saint and also because of the characteristic nature of the sandy terrain – called “rena”.
Over the years the monastery grew bigger and became the goal of many pilgrims, even the Queen, Eleanor of Anjou. In the first half of the 16th Century following an eruption of Etna and the increasing dangers due to numerous local bands of brigands, the monks asked to transfer to Catania, where they founded their new monastery also called San Nicolò l'Arena. The monastery in the City of Catania, founded in the 16th Century is the second largest in Europe (after that of Mafra in Portugal). Building began in 1558 and was inaugurated, though not yet completed, in 1578 by the Viceroy of Sicily, Giovanni Della Cerda. In 1669 one of Etna’s most devastating eruptions reached as far as the monastery and destroyed the little Church built one hundred years earlier. The Benedictine monks then set to work to restore and completely restructure the buildings and at the same time began a project to build the monumental Church of San Nicola that began in 1687. A terrible earthquake in 1693, however, that almost totally destroyed the city of Catania, also demolished most of the monastery and more than half of the 50 monks were killed. The Church, on the other hand, still in course of construction, was spared, though work was interrupted for 20 years.
Following that eruption and the earthquakes, the monks of Catania undertook to help the people and built several great monuments. They slowly began to rebuild the new monastery starting in 1703 and also began to continue with building the Church; the dome was built in 1780. The complex, however, remained unfinished due to technical and financial problems.
Inside the building is the largest organ in Sicily with a fine organ case from the 18th century, currently under restoration; (Bellini played here); and a 39 metres long time-meridian, built in 1839, that catches the sunlight precisely at 13 minutes past midday.
Nowadays the Monastery is the seat of the Faculty of Liberal Arts of Catania University.
 Holy Nails – The much revered True Cross was found in Jerusalem, together with some Holy Nails (believed to have been those used to crucify Jesus – it is not certain how many were found, nor whether 2, 3, or 4 nails were used in the crucifixion).
Eusebius (a bishop of Caesarea in Palestine is often referred to as the father of church history because of his work in recording the history of the early Christian church in the late 3rd and early 4th Centuries AD) in his Life of Constantine describes how the site of the Holy Sepulchre, originally a site of veneration for the Christian community in Jerusalem, had been covered with earth and a temple of Venus had been built on top — although Eusebius does not say as much, this would probably have been done as part of Hadrian's reconstruction of Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina in 135 AD, following the destruction during the Jewish Revolt of 70 AD and Bar Kokhba's revolt of 132–135 AD. Following his conversion to Christianity, in about 325–326 AD Emperor Constantine ordered that the site be uncovered and instructed Saint Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, to build a church on the site. Saint Helena, Constantine's aged mother, had the temple destroyed and the Sepulchre uncovered, whereupon three crosses and the titulus* (nameplate) from Jesus's crucifixion were uncovered as well. In Socrates's version of the story, Macarius had the three crosses placed in turn on a deathly ill woman. This woman recovered at the touch of the third cross, which was taken as a sign that this was the cross of Christ.
Socrates also reports that, having also found the nails with which Christ had been fastened to the cross, Helena sent these to Constantinople, where they were incorporated into the emperor's helmet and the bridle of his horse. With the Cross were also found the Holy Nails, which Helena took with her back to Constantinople. According to Theodoret, "She had part of the cross of our Saviour conveyed to the palace. The rest was enclosed in a covering of silver, and committed to the care of the bishop of the city, whom she exhorted to preserve it carefully, in order that it might be transmitted uninjured to posterity."
Another popular ancient version from the Syriac tradition replaced Helena with a fictitious first-century empress named Protonike.
Historians consider these versions to be apocryphal in varying degrees. It is certain, however, that the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre was completed by 335 and that alleged relics of the Cross were being venerated there by the 340s, as they are mentioned in the Catecheses of Cyril of Jerusalem.
Most of the very small relics of the True Cross in Europe came from Constantinople. The town was captured and sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204: "After the conquest of the city Constantinople inestimable wealth was found, incomparably precious jewels and also a part of the cross of the Lord, which Helena transfers from Jerusalem and was decorated with gold and precious jewels. There it attained highest admiration. It was carved up by the present bishops and was divided with other very precious relics among the knights; later, after their return to the homeland, it was donated to churches and monasteries." Chronica regia Coloniensis (sub annorum 1238 - 1240), page 203.
By the end of the Middle Ages so many churches claimed to possess a piece of the True Cross, that John Calvin is famously said to have remarked that there was enough wood in them to fill a ship:
* In the context of the Crucifixion, the titulus INRI** was affixed to the cross.
** INRI is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM, which translates to English as: "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews".
Very little reliance can be placed upon the authenticity of the thirty or more holy nails which are still venerated, or which have been venerated until recent times, in such treasuries as that of Santa Croce in Rome, or those of Venice, Aachen, the Escurial, Nuremberg, Prague, etc. Probably the majority began by professing to be facsimiles which had touched or contained filings from some other nail whose claim was more ancient. Without conscious fraud on the part of anyone, it is very easy for imitations in this way to come in a very brief space of time to be reputed originals. The bridle of Constantine is believed to be identical with a relic of this form which for several centuries has been preserved at Carpentras, but there is another claimant of the same kind at Milan. Similarly the diadem of Constantine is asserted to be at Monza, and it has long been known as "the iron crown of Lombardy."
 Octavo - (sometimes abbreviated to "8vo," and sometimes pronounced "eight-vo"), a term from bibliography, refers to the format of a book. An octavo is smaller than the “folio” and the “quarto”, but larger than the “duodecimo”. A sheet is folded over three times, so each sheet consists of eight leaves (or sixteen pages). The average hardcover book today is the rough size of an octavo.
Whereas the most serious materials (such as Bibles) have traditionally appeared in folios, more popular works (such as novels) have traditionally appeared in octavos.
 Piazza degli Studi - As far as I can ascertain, by Piazza degli Studi they are referring to the Piazza of the University. Catania University was founded in 1434 next to the Duomo (Cathedral) and is the oldest University in Sicily. In 1684 it transferred to the site of the San Marco Hospital but in 1693 that was destroyed by an earthquake; new buildings were created in 1696 which still form the main site even today.
It was based on the University at Bologna (the oldest in the world) and thus is run partly by the Rector and partly by the students although the main power belongs to the clergy. With over 62,000 students (in 2006) it is one of the largest Universities in Italy.
Detail of the University of Catania,
beside the San Nicolò Church
 S. Agata -
Saint’s Day : 5th February
There is little reliable information about this martyr, honored since ancient times, whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Born in prison at Catania or Palermo, Sicily (sources vary) she died martyred c.250 at Catania, Sicily by being rolled on coals.
Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius* announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha's sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus' advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, "Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?" One version has it that Saint Peter healed her. Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake struck. In the destruction, the magistrate's friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.
Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
She is the patron saint of :- Ali, Sicily; bell-founders; breast cancer; breast disease; Catania, Sicily; against fire; earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; fire prevention; jewelers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; Palermo, Sicily; rape victims; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wet-nurses; Zamarramala Spain
Representation : breasts on a dish; embers; knife; loaves of bread on a dish; pincers; shears; tongs; veil; virgin martyr wearing a veil and bearing her severed breasts on a silver platter .
The name Agata/Agatha means “good”. It is a much used girl’s name in Sicily, especially in Catania.
* Caius Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius
Roman emperor (249-251), born near Sirmium, Pannonia. He was the first of the great soldier emperors from the Danubian provinces. His main efforts as ruler were devoted to repelling the Goths from the Balkans, but he was defeated in the marshes of the Dubrudscha where he lost his life. He had hoped to solve the pressing internal problems by reviving paganism. This led to his attempting to crush Christianity by a more violent persecution than the Church had yet experienced.
A great, very longed-for celebration takes place in Catania every year from 3rd to 5th February, in honour of Saint Agata; a huge crowd of believers processes through the city’s historical centre to celebrate their beloved Patron Saint. The event draws thousands of visitors from all over Sicily and beyond.
Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca