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Scala has been Christian since its foundation and the Scalese are very religious. Monsignor Cesario d’Amato, the precious historical memorialist of the area, wrote that Scala was a flourishing community of men and women who embraced a life of spiritual obligation in order to obtain spiritual perfection. From the very beginnings, there have been Benedictine and Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
He is the most important figure in the far history of Scala. Belonging to a noble Scalese family,the dei Saxo, he was an important protagonist in the tumultuous events in the Holy Land, around the year 1000, during the first Crusades against the Muslims. A man of great charity and sense of organization, he welcomed Christian pilgrims to the hospital of St John the Baptist in Jerusalem, which was financed by Amalfitan traders. After the Christian conquest in 1099, he was named Prior and founded the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitaller).
Blessed Gerard was born in the village of San Pietro. An old photograph shows the remains of the internal courtyard of the de Saxo family dwelling. The building, over the centuries, underwent great changes. Today only the four columns supporting the cross vaults are visible.
The order of the Knights Hospitaller was founded to help the needy and to defend Christianity. In 1310, when the Turks conquered Jerusalem, the order was forced to move first of all to Cyprus, then to Rhodes and finally to Malta, thus the present name the Order of the Knights of Malta. When Napoleon conquered the island in 1801, he compelled the Knights to abandon Malta as well. The Order however continued to consider itself a Sovereign body deprived of a territorial state. Today its seat is in via Condotti in Rome, a building which has the guaranteed status of extra-territoriality.
Like many churches in the area San Pietro (St Peter’s) had a crypt which served as an ossuary. Of the original frescoes, there are traces of a Knight of Malta.
He was born in Marianella di Napoli, during the Age of Enlightenment. Esteemed for his simple, warm ways, even as a child, he showed prodigious talent in many artistic fields. A brilliant lawyer at the age of eighteen, he left the profession as a protest against the misapplication of justice. He thus reached a radical turning point and chose the priesthood in order to devote himself passionately to the poor and needy. He came across Scala during a spiritual retreat to the hermitage of Santa Maria dei Monti, where he had gone for a period of reflection. Here he had the opportunity of looking after the poor mountain shepherds and of meeting another exceptional religious figure, Blessed Maria Crostarosa.
Just past the centre, hidden from the road, is the church of St Alphonsus. It overlies the Valley of the Dragone river with a broad view over Amalfi and the sea. A compulsory stop for the Redemptionist order of monks and nuns, it was the secret place where St Alphonse dei Liguori used to pray and where he experienced several apparitions of Our Lady. Singularly impressive is the bare rock behind the apse.
A woman of decisive and outgoing character, she was born in Naples and, at a very young age, entered the convent of the Carmelitans in Marigliano, near Naples. She moved to one of the new convents in Scala where she had visions of Our Lord suggesting she should found a new order. Because of her impetus, initially, she was not believed. But soon Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori’s scepticism was transformed into great trust. Through the association of these two holy personalities, the Congregation of the Redemptionists and the Order of the Redemptionists were founded in Scala and are nowadays a religious presence worldwide.
Affectionately called the colourful nuns because of their dark red habit, so different from the usual black and white of other orders of the time. The Redemptionist nuns, whom the Scalese population are very fond of, represent a strong identifying element of the whole community. From its Foundation onwards the order has had a remarkable following: today, in various parts of the world, there are 42 convents.
The monastery, in the heart of the town, was founded in 1731 in a noble building, already the seat of the Order of the Visitandines. Near the convent there is a guesthouse, which every year hosts visitors from all over the world who are fascinated by the profound spiritual faith present in the area.
The preparation of shortbread. The Redemptionists, who used to observe a strict rule of exclusion, nowadays live a more open hospitality.
The grating is decorated with the dove that symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The ancient confessional box where Saint Alphonsus and Blessed Maria Crostarosa used to dialogue.
The life of the Scalese population is marked by a series of Christian festivities. So many religious figures have historically been attached in some way to the culture and history of the town. The events take place all year round. Here is a list of those events peculiar to Scala to which other national holidays are added.
With their traditional light blue capes, the devotees of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary during the procession. Together with the Confraternity of St Joseph the Worker, these are two active prayer groups in Scala.
With their traditional light blue cape, the devotees of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary during the procession. Together with the Confraternity of St Joseph the Worker, these are two active prayer groups in Scala.