The temporal distance of 14 centuries, also here will give us limits in the precision and in the story of the first years of life of the future Patron Saint of Campagna, Sant'Antonino Abate.
Among the various in-depth studies carried out over the years, we have always tried to put ourselves in line with the historians of the past and maintain, as much as possible, that common thread that has guided us to date.
He was born between 555 and 556 with the baptismal name of Domenico Lorenzo in the district of San Silvestro in the De Callis area, more or less towards the current S. Maria la Nova 1 by Alessandro Vitale Catello and Adelicia Maddalena de Berea, both descendants of aristocratic families from the countryside but soon became the orphan of both parents. He was welcomed as a child by the Benedictine friars of the abbey of Santa Maria La Nova, where he remained for the whole novitiate and at the end of his journey, it seems, he assumed the name of Antonino.
Numerous controversies have concerned the declination of his initial surname of Catello and that of Cacciottolo, as we know it today: there has been much discussion among hagiographers and it has been concluded that, most likely, a transformation by dialectal declination has been carried out, from Catello to Cacciottolo, therefore due to its physical characteristics. "Cacciottolo" seems to derive from the Latin Catus which means, "stocky", "bassino", "caciottiello" , as it is still used today in the popular saying 2 .
On the other hand, it is well known that, especially in our districts, the surname often arose from the trades, places of origin, rather than from physical characteristics. So, if this were the case, we could also have a general picture of the physical characteristics and appearance of our illustrious fellow citizen.
The era in which Antonino lived was not at all easy. In those years our territories were witnesses of bloody raids and Byzantine atrocities, Ostrogoths but above all Lombard for the dominance of the peninsula, especially in Southern Italy.
These military incursions were led by dukes who were very quarrelsome with each other, continually fighting for the desire to conquer, the reason why Sant'Antonino was forced to flee several times. In fact, the Germanic peoples who migrated frequently in those years did not spare even abbeys, churches and monasteries.
It was probably also for this reason that towards the end of the 4th century 3 the saint was moved to the abbey of Montecassino on which our local church of Santa Maria La Nova 4 depended. Here the future San Catello was bishop, a key figure in Antonino's life, soon becoming his trusted collaborator; in fact, he entrusted him with the diocese he presided over with the role of vicar at a time when the castellamarese saint needed a period of hermitage and solitude.
It is precisely this practice of hermitage that characterized much of the life of the saint from Campania. The situation was reversed when it was Antonino who asked Catello to reach Mount Aureo (today Faito): here he settled in a cave that reflected his needs and was immediately joined by San Catello, also in need of solitude after having named a new vicar.
Legend has it that, one night while they were separately gathered in prayer, in the sky they both saw, from different positions, a fiery press appear that dominated the top of the mountain, illuminating it in the dark. Amazed, they both asked the Lord the reason for that gesture and, to each of them, the Archangel Michael appeared and communicated God's will to build an oratory where they used to pray and which bore the name of the Soldier of God, head of the Angelic Hosts.
Consequently their return to that of Stabia, the fame for their miraculous deeds had already preceded them. In particular, the citizens of Sorrento enchanted by its sanctity, asked Antonino to stay and take care of the spiritual life of the place. At first reluctant, they turned to Catello to intercede for them. Antonino consented, thus becoming abbot and settling in 608 5 at the Sorrento abbey of Sant'Agrippino.
In this sacred place the Saint spent his last years of life and upon his arrival in Sorrento, the legend further tells us that Antonino, in descending from Monte Aureo, crossed the different districts of Vico Equense looking for refreshment and asking for a sip of water. which was rejected by all the people he met. In those days, getting water was hard work so everyone, once they got supplies, was careful not to part with it.
Arriving in the district of Arola, however, he met an elderly lady who generously promptly offered him a drink. In thanking her, it is said that Sant'Antonino said: "Wherever you dig in this town, you may always find the waters abundant". Since then, in Arola, there have never been problems of drought and It is common to exclaim "wherever you dig you can find water and build a well".
Once quenched, according to legend, Sant'Antonino planted three acorns and watered them with the water offered him by the old lady. From these three oaks were born and, currently, a piece of branch is preserved under the statue of the Saint in Piazza Sant'Antonino 6 in Arola.
The Saint entered the kingdom of heaven on February 14, 625 and his mortal remains were placed “neither inside nor outside the walls of the city”, as Antoninus himself wanted.
Years later a church was built in his honor in the eastern part of today's city.
Meanwhile in Campagna, the friars of the abbey of Santa Maria La Nova, who became aware of the sacking of Montecassino, soon took action to bring back the column of the saint where he was tied and scourged, in vain, by the devil in an attempt to steal his soul. The monks succeeded in this, keeping it in the cell where the young Antonino stayed years before.
The long process of sanctification and the beginning of the cult in Campagna began only in about 1080, while the official festivity began on December 13, 1253, when the thaumaturgical column in the church of Zappino was transferred to our city.
From the notarial deed of transfer with the monks of Santa Maria La Nova, the day of the celebrations was established, ie February 14 of each year 7 , as they had done until then.
Text by Cristian Viglione.
Revisions: Francesco Pezzuti.
1. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Illustrious people. - VOL. P - p. 10 - Year 2005
2. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Illustrious people. - VOL. P - p. 11 - Year 2005
3. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Illustrious people. - VOL. P - p. 12 - Year 2005
4. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Famous people. - VOL. P - p. 14 - Year 2005
5. Don Marcello Stanzione - Sant'Antonino Abate and San Michele Arcangelo | The monks and the celestial spirits - pag. 63 - Ed. Segno
6. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Illustrious people. - VOL. P - p. 16 - Year 2005
7. Valentino Izzo - Telling the Campaign ... Illustrious people. - VOL. P - p. 17 - Year 2005