The Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo

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Mazara del Vallo


When I think of Mazara del Vallo, what always springs to mind are its port and its fishing fleet, often on the news because of the frequent seizures by the Libyan guard ships. Once you get to the town, the first thing to catch your attention is the long promenade, well maintained with neat gardens, cut in two by the river Mazaro. However, the most astonishing symbol of Mazara is housed in the former church of Saint Egidio. It is the statue of the Dancing Satyr recovered by a fishing boat from Mazara del Vallo, in the Sicilian Channel.

The leg of the sculpture, entangled in the nets, was recovered first, then, the following year, the crew of the same fishing boat recovered the torso, that during the recovery lost an arm. The sculpture, beautifully restored, leaves the public amazed for its radiant beauty. I can only imagine how astonished and excited the fishermen of the “Capitan Ciccio” were, when in 1997, they recovered the Satyr from the bottom of the sea, at a depth of 500 meters, where it had lain undiscovered for centuries. The bronze sculpture, by some dated IV century BC and by others the third and second centuries BC represents a Silenus, a mythological being, follower of the orgiastic procession of Dionysus. Its life- size dimensions conveys uneasiness because of the perceived body movement of the frenzied dancing, that never seems to be over. You feel hypnotized by his piercing alabaster eyes and enraptured by his gestures, inviting you to join his whirling dance.

Mazara, which was an Arab and Norman town, today is a bustling town overlooking the promenade named after Giuseppe Mazzini which also houses a bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi, so as not to upset anyone. Before visiting the old town, we stop in the gardens that act like a stage between the houses and the sea. Here, the protagonists are the hundred year old Ficus magnolioides with their powerful roots that, coming out of the soil create magnificent sculptural forms. At the center of the old town, before arriving in Piazza della Repubblica, we find the Cathedral dating from the eleventh – century and rebuilt in 1694. The prospectus of the Seminary Palace is dated 1744 and it was designed by the architect Giovanni Biagio Amico from Trapani, with a portico and rounded arches. Almost opposite the former church, now home of the Dancing Satyr, are the remains of the eighteenth century Church of Saint’ Ignazio. Through its original entry you reach a sort of courtyard surrounded by tall columns where the sky has a vaulted ceiling.

Then, as we proceed towards the sea, whose strong scent is brought in the air by the breeze coming from the Sicilian Channel, a wall decorated with majolica makes me understand the identity of the town of Mazara: it is the town of the Satyr but it is also that of the “sea, wind and sun. A town of friendly stories and timeless flavors … of illusions, music and hidden silences. A town filled with mystery and future promise”.

(Traduzione di Monia Saponaro)

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