Matres Maranulae, Maranola di Formia: Anthropological Geographical Site


by Luigi Manciocco and Claudia Manciocco

Lattaia Cave and rupestrian church of Saint-Angelo, Morolo

This research concerns the theme of a study trip to Maranola di Formia, where there is a mysterious crypt, under the church of San Luca, hidden for centuries and only rediscovered in 1997. A pile of rubbish had covered splendid frescoes in Gothic style, depicting the Virgin breastfeeding the infant Jesus, the Archangel Saint Michael and other saints. The image of Mary breastfeeding is repeated almost sequentially up to six or seven times, with different styles, in a multiplicity that emphasizes the sacred character of the place and underlines its characteristics. The visit to this particular sacred space raised a series of questions, the first of which concerns the original function of the crypt, which is being particularly evoked as an environment linked to the cult of motherhood, consists of a pre-existing cave of karst nature, whose walls were once submerged in water, with the presence of stalactites and limestone formations, now gone. This environment, already before Christianity, probably sheltered a sanctuary of primordial cults, always linked to motherhood and breastfeeding. But we wonder which gods were worshiped in the cave, what were their names and what were their functions in popular beliefs? The presence of a well dug in the rock itself could be a clue to discover the original meaning of this sacred space linked to the aquatic element.
It should be noted that the study started from a linguistic and ethymological perspective; in fact, the initial purpose of the research was to identify the origin of the toponym Maranola. Later, we wanted to determine if the name of this place and the meaning of the name were linked in any way to the crypt-cave. To this end, we have carried out interdisciplinary research that has involved mainly anthropology, archaeology, and in particular linguistics, and glottology, to find the origin and meaning of the name Maranola.


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World-renowned painter, man of culture and of great artistic sensitivity, he represents the best part of the contemporary cultural world. Professor of Design, Sculpture and Plastic Decoration, he presented his works in numerous national and foreign events.

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