Unidentified Photos from Italy
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The identity of the man in this photo is unknown. He looks very much like Normandia relatives of mine.
It was taken in Palma Campania, Napoli, Italy. The sash says "Normandia." This is one of many original old photographs that belonged to my grandaunt, Maria Soletta Normandia, who left Palma Campania with her three children. Maria came to Brooklyn, New York, after the death of her husband, Antonio Alfano, in New York in 1911. After Maria died, the pictures went to her son Alfonso Alfano, who was a policeman with the NYPD. When he was quite old he gave all of his mother's photos from Italy to a Normandia cousin in Maspeth. Eventually they were given to me when cousin Bob visited us in Florida.
I wrote to the high school in Palma Campania, hoping someone there could explain the occasion of this unusual photo. I was pleasantly surprised to get this interesting answer to the mysterious picture.
I was told that the object in the photograph is a small altar that was constructed of wood and covered in red or sky-blue velvet and decorated with gold and silver fringes. This little altar was called a CATALETTO. Sometimes it was used when a member of a religious society died, or on the anniversary of a member's death. At times, it was built on the occasion of a religious procession and it was exhibited, or taken on the procession, to bless the suffering souls of the dead.
My correspondent showed the photo to a friend who is a priest, and got further details.
It represents a small altar dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. In the procession of Corpus Christi (The Body of God), it is the priest's religious duty to carry, in his hands, the Ciborium, with the consecrated hosts. In the region thru which this procession passes, a family, or a group of people from the area, prepare this little altar outside their houses. Then, when the procession passes by, the priest places the Ciborium on it and blesses the place and the people who live there. Many times, the pictures of the dearly departed are placed upon these little altars.
I was told that in analyzing the photograph, it's not as important to know where it was taken as it is in understanding the symbols. There's the image of the Madonna and also a greeting written to honor the Madonna. It seems that for many years now, this practice has not been in use.
Many thanks to the all the people who helped, including my cousin who translated the emails back and forth.
Now, does anyone recognize the Normandia man in the photo?
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