Myth of Colapesce
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Myth of Colapesce

La legend of Colapesce it is a widespread legend in southern Italy with many variations, the first attestations of which date back to the twelfth century. It has been told by many, including Pitre 

Nicola was the last of many brothers: he lived with his family in Messina, in a hut near the sea and from childhood he became familiar with the waves.

When he grew up and became a quick, muscular boy, his joy was to dive deep into the water and, when he was in it, he too marveled how he didn't feel the need to return to the surface until after a long time. He could remain underwater for hours and hours, and when he came back up, he would tell his mother what he had seen: underwater dwellings of ancient cities swallowed up by the waves, caves full of marvelous phosphorescences, ferocious fights of giant fish, boundless forests of corals and so on. Street. The family, hearing these wonders, took him for exalted; but, insisting on staying out of the house, without helping his brothers in the hard struggle for bread, and seeing that he was really spending his time in the waves and under the sea, as another would go for a walk in the fields, he worried and tried to drive those strange thoughts from his son's head. Cola loved the sea so much and consequently he loved fish too: he was desperate to see the full baskets that his brothers were carrying home, and once he found an eel still alive inside, he ran to throw it into the sea. The mother being aware of this, I reproach him bitterly:
- Nice job you can do! Your father and your brothers are struggling to catch the fish and you throw it back into the sea! This is a mortal sin, throwing away the stuff of the Lord. If you do not repent, you too may become a fish.

When parents address a grave word to the children, God hears and hears. So it had to happen for Nicola. His mother tried everything to distract him from the sea, and believing him bewitched, he turned to holy men of religion. But their wise advice was of no use. Cola continued to frequent the sea and often stayed away for days and days, because he had found a very comfortable way to make long journeys without effort: he let himself be swallowed by certain large fish he found in the deep sea and, when he wanted, he broke their belly with a knife and so he found himself outside, ready to continue his explorations. Once he came back from the bottom bringing some gold coins and he continued for a long time, until he recovered the treasure of an ancient ship that had sunk in that place.

His fame grew so much that when the emperor Frederick came to Messina, he immediately wanted to know the strange being half man and half fish.

He was on a ship offshore when Cola was admitted into his presence.

- I want to experiment - the Emperor told him - what you can do. I throw this golden cup into the sea; you bring it back to me.

- A trifle, your majesty, Cola said, and threw himself elegantly into the waves.

Soon he came to the surface with the golden cup in his right hand. The king was so happy that he gave Cola the precious object and invited him to stay with him.

One day he said to him:
- I want to know what the bottom of the sea is like and how the island of Sicily rests on it.

Cola dived, stayed away for a long time; and when he returned, he informed the Emperor.

- Majesty, - She said - there are three columns on which our island rests: two are intact and strong, the other is vacillating, because the fire consumes it, between Catania and Messina.

The sovereign wanted to know how this fire was made and demanded a little to be able to see it. Cola replied that he could not carry fire in his hands; but the sovereign was indignant and threatened dark punishments.

- Confess it, Cola, you're scared.

- I am scared? - the young man retorted - Even the fire I will take you. In any case, at one time or another, we must die well. If you see a stain of blood rising to the surface of the waters, it means that I will never go up again.

He threw himself headlong into the sea, and the people waited with their hearts torn between hope and fear. After a long useless wait, a stain of blood appeared.

Cola had descended to the bottom, where the water takes the reflections of the fire, and then farther on where it boils, driving away all the fish: what happened down there? It is unknown: Cola never reappeared.

Someone claims that he did not die and that he remained at the bottom of the sea, because he realized that the third column on which Sicily rests was about to collapse and wanted to support it, as it still supports it today.

There are also those who say that Cola will return to earth when there is no one among men who suffers from pain or punishment.

From the network:

Places indicated in the IWB register of the Sicily Region (Places of Identity and Memory) - Sector "Places of heroes and heroic legends"

  • Capo Peloro (Messina)

Card insertion: Ignazio Caloggero

Information contributions: Ignazio Caloggero Web

Photos: websites

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