THE PATH OF SAN SEBASTIANO & THE CHURCH OF SAN ROCCO
Attention, the Path is undergoing maintenance and is currently not viable! (Update 06/19/21)
At the foot of Monte Legnone, about 400 m asl near the hamlet of San Rocco, stands a small church with important historical roots.
Erected at one of the last stages of the Sentiero del Viandante (the only road connecting the eastern shore, until at least the first half of the 19th century), it was initially dedicated to San Sebastiano.
During the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries numerous epidemics followed one another that led the local population to invoke and venerate San Rocco, a saint they perceived closest to them as a pilgrim and patron of the infected.
Those who were struck by the terrible plague could lodge under the porch or next to the church; in fact, it is assumed that there was a stone or wooden building used for them as they were removed from the community to limit the risk of contagion. In the churchyard there was also a small cemetery that housed the bodies of those who unfortunately perished there.
The saint is widely depicted inside the small building according to the classic iconography of the time, with the typical elements of the pilgrim.
Next to San Rocco there is also a beautiful sixteenth-century fresco depicting the martyrdom of San Sebastiano against the backdrop of a mountain lake landscape. On the other walls: a '"Last Supper" dating back to the sixteenth century, a sinopia depicting Saints Rocco and Sebastiano, Sant'Antonio Abate with the characteristic tau cross and at his side the figure of San Sebastiano.
On the opposite side of the wall of the small apse dated 1400, there are the frescoes with the images of Sant'Agnese holding a book and Santa Brigida holding a long pen in her hand.
In less disastrous periods, the church was not only a simple place of worship, but also a shelter and restaurant for the numerous pilgrims and travelers who walked the Path of the Wayfarer.
The small church of S. Rocco is just one example of the innumerable signs of popular religiosity that are found scattered in the Colico area .. tangible testimony of the religious attachment of the then community life. And if it is true, therefore, that religion became an opportunity to meet to strengthen community and family ties, it also served to interrupt, albeit for a brief moment, the sacrifices of "a harsh" daily duty.
Religious holidays were therefore particularly heartfelt and lived with fervent participation and pomp. In some of them, more than two dozen priests from the district could be counted in a single celebration. That of Good Friday was the most popular procession ever, so much so that secondary municipal roads were also used for the celebration.
The exercise of this profound spirituality has spread throughout the territory thanks to paths, to date, more or less known. In some way they have absorbed the spirit, despite the time and sometimes the silent carelessness that led to its partial loss. In fact, the best (albeit not always effective) solution to keep them present is to "tickle the soul" towards greater awareness and recovery of information and traditions.
There are countless connections at the base of a sometimes difficult research path, but which, if examined, knows how to surprise by creating incredible and unexpected "matches". Therefore, new information and elements, which merge to give meaning to apparently impassable aspects, but which in reality are not.
The ambiguous question on the correlation between the Church of S. Sebastiano (now S. Rocco) and the Molino Maufet or if you like .. more generically, the village of Villatico is therefore evident.
What was the San Sebastiano Walkway?
It appears in the cadastral map of the Lombardy-Veneto Cadastre in 1800, without excluding much older roots.
It starts from the current via S. Rocco (a few hundred meters from the church of San Bernardino) and climbs along the entire slope below the plateau with a slow and easy course to go through the “Pra La Vacca” locality.
Finally it ends by unraveling itself in the middle of the thick vegetation of chestnut trees, directly on the plateau of San Rocco just behind the homonymous church.
In all its length it measures approximately 1300 meters. for a difference in height of almost 200 meters.
On this route, on the basis of precious and detailed historical reports, we learn of the transit (lasting for centuries) of numerous Bishops (or their delegates) for the completion of pastoral visits to the Church of San Sebastiano (hence the name of the walkway).
The walkway was also used for major Rogations when the parishioners went up in procession singing the Litany of the Saints and invoking protection from heaven on crops and on the earth; rites that took place on the occasion of the feast of San Marco and the Ascension.
From the plateau of San Rocco the blessing was given to the town as a sign of prosperity of the crops and protection from the scourges.
The statue of the saint was carried on the shoulders by the brothers of the Blessed Sacrament for its celebration, on the 21st of January.
For the most part the route is delimited by dry stone walls, still visible today. Shortly after taking it, you pass in front of an ancient house which shows, on the external wall, a beautiful fresco depicting the Virgin Mary with the Child, flanked by Sant'Ambrogio Bishop of Milan and San Rocco Confessore dated 1854.
The house belonged to Pina and Celeste Selva (single sisters); the first was Prioress of the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament of Villatico. Laic and lavish in religion, they were a female group, parallel and autonomous with respect to the male one of the Blessed Sacrament, also present in Villatico. It is in fact in the most important churches that these spontaneous groups existed that dealt with church, religious functions, processions and traditions. It was not a question of a real order but of lay associations made up of willing citizens who had at heart the fate of daily equipment linked to the parish; with their own statutes they faithfully respected strict and well-established rules.
Not entirely free from being overwhelmed by the curiosity and connections that local history submits to us from time to time, the name of Pina Selva reappears also in the history of Molino Maufet. We are therefore told that;
Pina, together with Maria Rezzonico, probably also by virtue of this spirit, had given availability, in the years immediately following the Second World War, to carry out the teaching service in what was the school of the hamlet, which found space in the premises above the Villatico dairy. We are talking about the 1950s. Sometimes even one of the upper rooms of the Molino Maufet became the seat of impromptu lessons, as Pina and the Celeste Sister, for reasons of age, found it more practical to stay in this structure due to its proximity to the inhabited center. Part of the original family of the two sisters, following their death moved to France.
When we believe that old piles of stones, .. walls erected to indicate a certain road are prey to nature, neglect and abandonment, we should ask ourselves an enormous and necessary reflection ... is worrying about it appropriate or right? Or both? .. Is it always something else or is it part of everything that has allowed us to reach certain balances and certain privileges today?
There are numerous sensible and reasonable answers .. it is certain that once upon a time, someone's hard and tenacious life serves a personal need like that of others, in the highest form of altruism and concrete virtue, a constructive coexistence. The need and the Faith in a dance repeated over time and in the soul.
In respect of them and in the immense opportunity to enjoy these ancient assumptions, we would find a safe landing and teaching.
And if therefore it is not something else, perhaps, in the deafening silence of a modern clock, we are giving up our most intimate root, existence.
So if the stones could speak, many would reduce it to the word "impossible" .. but what sweeter voice can we give them if not with the curiosity of knowledge, .. everything speaks and everything is silent, you just need to be able to listen and be just a humble pinch and enjoy whatever we can ponder.
[Thanks to Mauro Bellina who has been doing his utmost for some time to enhance the Way of Saint Sebastian, at this link you can also find the dedicated Facebook page ; & Mauro Branchini and Giacomina Pozzi for valuable information]