Capital of the Greek Calabria and one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Bova preserves an ancient history. The origins of Bova are linked to a legendary Greek queen, Oichista, who imprinted the imprint of her foot on the highest point of the fortress overlooking the village.
The ancient origins of the city of Bova (Vua) are testified by the numerous archaeological finds found near the Norman Castle dating back to the Neolithic period, although the first historically documented evidence of the existence of Bova dates back to the first years of the second millennium, when 1040 and 1064 the Normans imposed themselves on Arabs and Byzantines in the domination of Sicily and Calabria.
In Greek it is called Boos and in the Vua dialect. It could be a Latinized form of the Greek word boua (flock) from bous (ox). According to some, the name derives from the medieval Greek boua, grain ditch.
Inhabited uninterruptedly by the Neolithic, the fortress of Bova was probably a Greek great fortress located on the border of the poleis of Reggio and Locri.
Thanks to its strategic position, the site was very likely chosen as a refuge by the inhabitants of the coast, after the end of the 6th century. A.D. barbarian hordes, probably Lombards, burned the Roman statio of Scyle, identified in contrada San Pasquale in the municipality of Bova Marina. Like most of the historical centers of Southern Calabria, the fortress of Bova was fortified during the Saracen incursions to become a diocesan seat, perhaps, already around the tenth century.
Conquered by the Normans, it was subdued to William at the time when the bishop’s seat was ruled by Luke (1095-1140), who became saint after being the mediator between the Latin church and the Greek faithful of the whole southern Reggio. In 1162 the diocese was given in fief to the archbishop of Reggio to remain there until 1806.
Until 1572, the diocesan seat of Bova kept alive the Greek-Byzantine liturgical rite, abolished following the Tridentine norms, by the Armenian bishop Giulio Stavriano. Bova was therefore one of the last Italian dioceses to be Latinized by the Catholic Church, whose power was consolidated only during the seventeenth century, a period which dates back to the great majority of architectural heritage preserved in the Greek town. Bova, in fact, keeps intact its medieval urban layout refined by late Baroque buildings and monumental eighteenth century buildings.
Of particular importance are the façades of the San Leo church, dated 1606, that of San Rocco and the Holy Spirit, respectively of 1622 and 1631. Worthy of note are the portal of the side aisle of the Isaiah’s concathedral, of the end of the Seventeenth century as well as the delicate facades of the church of Carmine and the Immaculate, dating back to the following century.
In most of the buildings of worship it is possible to admire valuable late sixteenth century sculptures, such as the Madonna dell’Isodia, autograph of Rinaldo Bonanno (1584), the Madonna with Child (1590), today in the church of San Caterina, attributed to the school del Bonanno, and the sculpture of San Leo (1582), in the homonymous shrine, whose paternity is still uncertain.
DISCOVER THE TOWN
The Chòra is placed at 820 meters s.l.m.
The arrival at Bova leaves everyone stunned. In the open space in front of the main square, stands out as a symbol of emigration, a locomotive 740 Ansaldo Breda, from 1911, the most representative steamer of the Ferrovie dello Stato. Not far away, the gaze falls on the imposing Palazzo dei Nesci Sant’Agata, with its crenellated arch, built in 1822. On the main square stands the Town Hall, built in the early twentieth century on the foundations of Palazzo Marzano, of which only ‘adjacent family chapel, dedicated to the Immaculate, currently used as a tourist office. Behind it stands the sanctuary of San Leo, patron saint of the village: San Leo, an Italian Greek monk, who lived in the XII century near Africo Vecchio. His relics are kept in silver urn, commissioned in Naples in 1855, by Antonino Marzano.
The silver case is surmounted by a beautiful silver bust depicting the saint, made by a silversmith from Messina in 1635. On the altar, consecrated in 1755, stands the marble statue of San Leo, holding an ax and a ball in his hand of pitch, iconographic attributes reminiscent of his picaro work done for charitable purposes. Made in 1582, it is considered the masterpiece of Rinaldo Bonanno even if some do not exclude a participation of the father of Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Pietro. According to other hypotheses, the sculpture is instead due to Michelangelo Naccherino, a Florentine artist, active in the Kingdom of Naples in the second half of the sixteenth century. Behind the church there is one of the gates of the Aspromonte National Park, where an original display gives an evocative synthesis of the traditional Greek culture. Continuing along thousand steps you reach the fortress that dominates the town, at 950 meters above sea level. Ancient fort of the Byzantine age, it was restructured during the Norman and Angevin ages, a period to which today we can attribute the few surviving remains of the perimeter walls. At the foot of the fortress stands the Cathedral of Isodia, a Byzantine title of the Madonna presented by Saint Anne to the Temple. In 1572, in this church the Cypriot bishop, Giulio Stavriano, abolished the Byzantine rite, decreeing the complete Latinization of the extreme South of the Peninsula.
Following the profile of the cliffs that embrace Bova one can see the last of the towers that from the time of the Anjou (XIII-XIV sec.) Surround the city. The district called PIRGOLI, (in Greek towers) was once the Giudecca di Bova. Its southern door was included in the arch that joined the two wings of the Palazzo dei Mesiano Mazzacuva, rebuilt after the earthquake of 1783. Also interesting is the church of San Rocco, built at the ancient entrance of the town, after the plague that struck the village in 1577. The building probably finished in 1622, when an inscription recalls the main door, preserves inside the nineteenth-century wooden statue of San Rocco.
The village also houses two important museums: the Museum of the Greek Language dedicated to Gerhard Rohlfs, a well-known German linguist who made the ancient origins of this idiom known to the whole world, and the Aspromonte Civic Museum of Paleontology and Natural Sciences, both entrance to the town. In the old neighborhood of Rao, near the town square is instead the open-air Museum of Rural Civilization, recently opened only thanks to the contribution of Saverio Micheletta, a migrant who has immortalized memories of his childhood through relics of agropastoral life of his land.
TRADITIONS & CRAFTS
Bova is one of the few countries where ancient customs and traditions still remain.
The craftsmanship has very distant roots and here one of its greatest expressions is the popular weaving. Wool, linen, cotton and broom provided the weavers with the elements obtained in a natural way, which were then worked with the hand loom to produce fabrics that, sewn in groups of three, formed the vutane blankets. The most common drawings date back to the Byzantine era: the “mattunarico”, the “telizio”, the “greek”, the “greek”, the “muddare”.
The other historic craft side of the place is that of woodworking. Originally the finely inlaid wooden objects were the result of the work of the shepherds: looms, molds for sweets (plumia), spoons (mistre) and especially the musulupare, molds for the ancient cheese aspromontano “musulupu”.
The local cuisine recalls the flavors and colors of the exquisitely Mediterranean, but its origin is decidedly Greek.
Characterized by the elements of the agro-pastoral tradition, the kitchen has at its base goat’s milk, tomato, olive oil, which are the ingredients of delicacies such as maccarruni cu sucu da crapa, the cordeddi with sauce, the tagghiarini with chickpeas, the rich of previti with the tomato, the goat meat to the vutana.
Much sought after in these parts the meats (sausage, capocollo, soppressata), the cheeses, among which ricotta and musulupi (a fresh cheese that is consumed during the Easter period) and sweets of the festivity, like the Christmas tradition, the ‘nghute of the Easter tradition, the scaddateddi, donuts with the hole and seeds of cumin. You can also taste the lestopitta, a pancake made of flour and water, fried in the oil to be eaten hot.
The Path of Peasant Civilization
The Path of the Peasant Civilization is an open-air museum in the municipality of Bova, capital of the Grecian area of Calabria, designed and built by Saverio Micheletta.
It is a path that winds through the alleys of the ancient village where the main working tools of the peasant culture have been installed: mills of water mill and animal traction, presses and presses of crusher, drinker for animals, palmenti to press grapes, presses to extract the essence of bergamot and many other objects belonging to the ancient agricultural civilization.
The Museum of Greek-Calabrian language “Gerhard Rohlfs”
The Greek-Calabrian Language Museum “Gerhard Rohlfs” was inaugurated in Bova on 21 May 2016, thanks to the synergistic intervention of the Aspromonte National Park with local public authorities appointed to enhance and protect the cultural heritage of the historical-linguistic minority of the Greeks of Calabria.
The museum is located right at the entrance of the village, in a particularly symbolic site, as it represents the exact point where the traveler Edward Lear, drew a beautiful view of Bova, during his wanderings in Calabria in the mid-nineteenth century. The visit to this original museum allows us to know more closely the Greek-Calabrian language, its history and its archaic peculiarities through the exposition of the linguistic theses formulated by Gerhard Rohlfs who, since 1924, supported the magnogreca origin of the spoken that still lives in the Hellenophonic villages of Bova, Gallicianò and Roghudi, in the most impervious slopes of the southern Aspromonte.
In the six rooms of the museum, each dedicated to great scholars who have become interested in the immaterial heritage of the Greeks of Calabria, it is possible to study different aspects of the Greek language, both through photos and historical documents, and through audio-visual installations, which allow listen and understand this ancestral language, dating back to the times of Homer.
In addition to the exhibition of ethnographic artefacts, belonging to the same Gerhard Rohlfs, donated to the museum by his son Eckart, it is possible to trace the vicissitudes of the German linguist, following the exposition of his thesis on the Greek-Calabrian origins, hypothesis that impacted the sensitivity of Italian linguists of the time, because they undermined the nationalist view of the regime, highlighting how ancient Rome had not been able to Latinize the entire Italian peninsula.
In the Franco Mosino room it is in fact possible to investigate, through the current archaeological and palaeographic data, but also thanks to reconstructions of historical settings, the millenary path of the Greek-Calabrian language, its transformations thanks to the contribution of the Byzantine culture and later influences exerted by the repeated foreign dominations that have occurred in the aspromontane lands of the Greeks of Calabria.