Filadelfia lies at the end of the Serre Vibonesi and near to the Angitola reservoir; geographically, the town is just a few kilometres from both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
Filadelfia originated from the existing settlement of Castel Monardo, a village destroyed by a series of violent earthquakes in 1783.
Filadelfia was reconstructed copying the same format as the American town of Philadelphia.
The surviving inhabitants abandoned the village and moved to a hill close to the original centre on the Gorna Plain. There, they founded the town of Filadelfia, which means ‘fraternal love’. Filadelfia was reconstructed copying the same format as the American town of Philadelphia, founded by William Penn a century before. The urban-planning layout has two arterial roads which cross, creating four quadrants with four churches and a large square at the centre. There is plenty of evidence of a regular exchange of letters between the founders of Filadelfia and Benjamin Franklin, the shrewd inspirer of the idea of reconstruction. A campaign of archaeological digs has slowly brought the most important structures of the old village to light and this has kept the link with the past alive so that a profound, complete identity of the whole community has been built. The link between the current inhabitants of Filadelfia and the ruins of the original village is kept alive through the work of the municipality, cultural groups, a pilgrimage in August and an exhibition in the auditorium.
The new idea of town
The convergence of the enlightened ideas of the baronial nobility, the participatory democracy of the townspeople and the contribution of the local clergy is behind the Filadelfia project, a town inspired by the free principles recalling the name and plan of the American Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Bishop Serrao wanted to give it this name “so that the inhabitants would always remember their Greek origin and recall and imitate the virtue of the ancestors but, in particular love like brothers and friends, not just each other but with the same feeling for all people.”
Tradition and folklore
There are many traditional festivals that have remained unchanged in time. There is the camel’s dance for the feast of S. Francesco accompanied by the centuries-old rhythm of the drums. Fires are lit at every crossroads on the feast of St. Anthony in his honour as a reminder of the time when herpes zoster (shingles), known in Italian as ‘St Anthony’s fire’, was very common. The Carnevale ceremonies are some of the best-loved by the people as, historically, they exorcised death and poverty. Carnivalari, a greedy spendthrift who doesn’t stop eating or drinking - seven kilos of meatballs, sazizza (Calabrian sausage), red wine and dui tighiedi and pasta chijna, impersonates a historical representation in Filadelfia. In the end, he bursts, dies and is mourned by his sister Coraijsima and the people who carry him in a mad funeral procession; at the end, the puppet is burnt on a purifying fire.
There is the traditional presentation of the ‘cumprunti’ on Easter Sunday. The statues of St John, Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary and the resurrected Christ are placed in two different points of the village and then, carried shoulder-high by believers, the meeting of the Virgin Mary with her resurrected son is re-enacted while the bells ring out.
The fountain is at the entrance to the village and welcomes visitors. It consists of three fountains, each topped by a sculpture with an apotropaic face (that averts evil) with water gushing from its mouth. The three faces depict hatred, love and oblivion. There is a low wall opposite the fountain where young people meet and spend time together playing the guitar, eating water melon or just watching the sunset and looking at the landscape.
Corso Castelmonardo, 94, Filadelfia