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San Giorgio Albanese (CS)

The guardians of Albanian culture

The village of San Giorgio Albanese is perched on a hill on the northern side of the Greek Sila.
 
San Giorgio, or Mbuzat in the Arbëreshë language, is one of the region's original traditional Albanian towns. It was founded at the end of the 15th century by Albanian refugees who arrived there during the reign of the Prince of Bisignano.
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This small town belongs to the Eparchy of Lungro and many of its inhabit-ants still speak the arbëreshë language. It has also preserved the Byzantine rite and traditional costumes, rituals, and ceremonies.
 

The village is located on the hills surrounding the Sila plateau and the plain of Sibari. The town centre expands around the Town Hall building and benefits from one of the most picturesque views of northern Calabria: on one side you can admire the peaks of the Pollino mountain range and on the other side the Ionian Sea and its endless beaches stretch out before you. The panoramic view of the red earthen hills of the olive groves and vineyards is also a sight to behold.

 
San Giorgio Albanese
 

Architecturally-speaking, the old town centre reflects the welcoming atmosphere and the social attitude that is typical of Albanian communities. The houses are built around a square, known as a shesi, whereas the heart of the urban structure is called the gjitonia.
This complex urban layout perfectly complements the residents’ social lives and facilitates interactions between the locals and the sharing of knowledge and skills. Visitors may be able to see neighbours sitting together on the steps chatting or making precious local handicrafts. Some of the town’s buildings feature prime examples of typical arbëreshë architecture such as impressive mouldings on the entrances of noble buildings and circular attic windows.

 
Saint George the Megalomartyr

The parish church dedicated to Saint George the Megalomartyr is located just a stone’s throw from the old monastery church and was built in a 1700s baroque style. It has three naves and is flanked by two Italian-Greek style chapels and an imposing bell tower topped by a Byzantine style spire.
Originally built in Roman style in accordance with the church obligations imposed by the relevant bishops, after the creation of the Eparchy of Lungro the Church was gradually adapted to the needs of the Byzantine tradition thanks to various restoration works supported by the parish priests.
In recent decades, the restoration work has produced impressive results and the Church is now considered one of the best examples of how Byzantine liturgical requirements can be integrated into a structure that was originally built according to the canons of the Roman tradition.
The interior houses numerous wooden statues dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including of the Madonna del Rosario, San Giorgio Martire, Santa Lucia, San Francesco di Paola, Angels holding the Madonna of Shkodra and a Crucifix.

 
San Giorgio Albanese
 
Traditional dress

In San Giorgio Albanese, many of the local residents still wear traditional Albanian clothing and continue to practise rites from previous generations.
 The traditional clothing of San Giorgio Albanese is different from that of other Arbëreshë communities as it includes a pandera, a kind of unique belt.
Festive wedding parties. Whilst the bride's friends prepare the colourful wedding dress, two choirs with alternating voices warn the bride of the pitfalls she may find in her path, begging her to tolerate an intrusive mother-in-law or the jealousies of relatives. When the bride is ready, the guests enter the church where the most evocative and sacred ceremony, known as “il pàpas” takes place. During the ceremony, the traditional Greek-Byzantine priest offers wine to the bride and groom in a glass which is then crushed against the ground. The couple then place and replace wreaths of flowers on each other’s heads three times whilst alternately crossing them over.
They then move around the altar together three times. The ceremony ends in a festive jubilation, in which guests can enjoy traditional Albanian dances and songs and the colours of the traditional clothing of San Giorgio Albanese.

 
San Giorgio Albanese
 
Gastronomy

The cuisine of San Giorgio Albanese consists of traditional arbёreshë dishes and desserts combined with dishes from the Calabrian culinary heritage.
The undisputed star is the homemade pasta. One must-try food is rrashkatjeltё, which are made of a simple mixture of water and flour which is then rolled around an iron stick. They are served with goat meat sauce and seasoned with local grated pecorino cheese.
Even today, the traditional, artisanal methods of bread-making continue to flourish. The local homemade bread, as well as the pittas, frese and taralli, are exported to most of the Italian regions.
In terms of traditional desserts, viskotinet, which is specially prepared for arbëreshë weddings, is well worth trying. At Christmas, xhurxhullena and qinullilet, crescent-shaped sweets filled with mustard, and krustulit, dough kneaded with eggs, wine, and oil, are prepared.
Whereas kuleçtë, circular-shaped cakes with boiled eggs, and riganelet, shortcrust pastry filled with raisins, walnuts, and almonds, are mainly eaten during the Easter period.

 


 


Address Piazza Marconi 1
  87060 San Giorgio Albanese (CS)
Phone number 0983 86396
Fax 0983 86025
Website http://sangiorgioalbanese.asmenet.it/
 

 

The main hamlet, developed around the Municipal Building, overlooks one of the most charming landscapes in Calabria: the Pollino mountain tops on one side, the Ionian Sea on the other, and all around the reddish hills with vineyards and olive groves. The town center develops along alleyways and small squares; the gjitonia is the place where people socialize, stay together and share experience and skills. Neighbors sit on the stairs, te sjeti, and share their social life chatting and handcrafting. 

The Church of San Giorgio Megalomartire is a fine example of sacred architecture. It is a baroque style 18th century building with three naves and an Italian Greek style chapel on each side. It was built according to the canons of Roman Catholic architecture; however, after the establishment of the Eparchy of Lungro, the church was adapted to the requirements of the Byzantine tradition that included a bell tower with a Byzantine-style pinnacle.  The restoration interventions made the Church one of the best examples in which Byzantine liturgical  requirements were perfectly integrated into a building erected according to Roman traditional canons. 



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