The great desire for Life after the Covid19 pandemic mobilizes many energies. At a time when countries are visibly depopulated, new stimuli are attracting attention in surprising directions. San Demetrio Corone, a noble Arbëresh village that still retains its old charm, is a small fresh oasis also from a cultural point of view; and I just visited MAD, the new museum of sports and racing cars owned by lawyer Adriano D’Amico.
To really appreciate the unique collection, I recommend direct viewing to the reader.
Instead, I would like to begin my reflection from afar by weaving it together with the suggestions that the museum inspired me. I take as my starting point the primeval forests of America, where it is said that on certain dark nights a pure light mysteriously hovers in flight, a flaming bird, like fire.
Preoccupied with the legendary Firebird, which the historian Herodotus, the poet Ovid and Russian mythology, among others, talked about, and which was a source of inspiration for Stravinsky when he composed the famous ballet “The Firebird”, I booked a rare guided tour around a few years ago about the famous Foz do Iguacu waterfalls, among the largest in the world, in search of this wonderful creature in the lush vegetation.
I then found out that some fungi use their bioluminescence to disperse their spores by attracting attention with their light. In nature, the zest for life asks for constant expansion. Already in an Orphic hymn from the fourth century, nature was defined with a suggestive Greek adjective “polysporos”, that is, with many seeds.
Sometimes these fungi lurk in the inner parts of trees filled with moisture, just where some birds find shelter. The spores attach to the feathers and are then transported to another tree trunk, where a new mycelium is born. When they come out of hiding, the feathers become impregnated with the bioluminescent substance luminous. So there is no such thing as a firebird, but any bird species can become the firebird.
By transposing, each person can, under certain conditions, be a light bearer; in theology, people in whom the light of God shines in a special way are called saints.
But even in the world of technology, there are fiery artifacts. There are cars like this, loaded with splendor, for the luminous space they occupy in the history of cars. If you look on the right side, the cars we love always shine through!
Some of these rare and wonderful cars have entered the collection of the Lawyer D’Amico di San Demetrio Museum, the fruit of his thirty years of passion.
Every good initiative, no matter what country it comes from, enriches our Arberia. I can only imagine: how something that is concretely made is the result of great passion and sacrifice. In this case, since it is a private initiative, this is even more true. As early as the 1970s, a sports car competition, the Gimkana, took place under the Collegio San Adriano, where people spun between the founders and the younger ones approached enthusiastically, forcing intense virtuosity out of their machines. The museum also offers didactics, a well-stocked niche library that can reveal to the enthusiast many curiosities from the world of cars. I was impressed with the Quattroruote collection and above all seeing the first issue from 1956. Some items that came into the collection are the result of donations.
As a human being, I do not see the world as it exists objectively. I take different information and interpret it in a way that makes sense to me. But individual differences — values, emotions, personality traits, and especially the past experiences we bring to any situation — affect our interpretations of the world. This means that our interpretations are extremely subjective. That is why, as a Byzantine priest, the idea that the passion for machines could have old, Byzantine roots sprang before me.
The sculptural group of the San Marco horses, visible at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, originally drew a quadriga in triumph located at the Hippodrome of Constantinople.
Even today, if you go to Istanbul (present-day Constantinople), you can visit the remains of the famous Hippodrome, one of the centers of the city’s social life and one of the spaces used for imperial rejoicing. Chronicles tells that Constantine, even after finishing work on the site, celebrated a race in which he was the first to participate.
Among other things, in the parish church of San Costantino Albanese in Basilicata, he is depicted on horseback.
But not only was imperial power closely linked to these horses, formidable machines from antiquity. There is a funny episode in the history of the Byzantine church, told with malice by the chroniclers. The very young patriarch of Constantinople Stephen I, Photius’ successor, had hymns and litany added to the solemn liturgy because during one of his celebrations in Santa Sofia he received the news of the impending birth of his beloved mare and wanted to go immediately to check the stables without interrupting the fair.
Therefore, pastors and politicians who love cars or who are passionate about Formula 1 have excellent forerunners, and the recent car museum, just inaugurated in San Demetrio Corone, is part of an ancient and noble tradition. It has nothing to do with it, you say? Elsewhere, Dante also wrote that as a child he wants a nice apple as a gift, but when he grows up, he wants a beautiful horse, as if to say: it is in the nature of things that modern man loves machines , which in the meantime has replaced horses.
It is also said of St. Paul that he fell from his horse. In one of Brueghel’s paintings, it is difficult to identify Saint Paul: he is confused among the many other figures, almost miniatures, that make up the canvas. Some critics interpret: a person who fell from a horse was for those around him a simple common fact, banal; important things happen without the contemporaries being aware of it. No one at that time understood the significance of that event. Mutatis mutandis, a museum of cars, if it seems to be of little importance in the things of the big world, rightly placed in the Calabrian cultural panorama, becomes a drop that enriches the fresh wave that pushes the healthy passion for cars towards the future.
Machines are a metaphor for beauty, strength, style, unstoppable technological development. The flaming exhibitors appear proud of their significance and are wisely presented in the context of the times with hints also to the cinematic films in which they appeared. They are newly restored, they look like they have just come out of the factory, with sparkling chrome. They are made of fabric and in a sense of light.