Before the end of January, 2023, I hadn’t realized what might be right behind the wooden doors of the pointed-arch medieval entryways in pink and white local limestone, lining Assisi’s winding medieval backstreets:
But I found out on January 29 2023.
On that day, I joined a group for an event sponsored by Assisi’s Museo del Memoria to commemorate the “Day of Remembrance,” January 27th (the day of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945).
Director of the Museo, Marina Rosati, had welcomed our group in the main square of Assisi, Piazza del Comune, just opposite the 1st-c. B.C. Temple to Minerva, the medieval belltower rising over the temple:
(Photo – Facebook Museo della Memoria)
Marina explained to us that she would soon lead us down the winding backstreets of Assisi to Via Fontebella and the home of Maceo Angeli.
Marina recounted to our bundled-up group that Maceo, too, had assisted in hiding the Jews in Assisi, 1943 – 1944….and that we would learn more when welcomed to his medieval home by daughter, Ginevra.
I’ve known Ginevra and Umberto for years – and have seen performances of Umberto’s medieval music group, Commedia Harmonica. I knew that Ginevra was the daughter of Maceo Angeli “Renaissance man” of Assisi: sculptor, painter, and wrought-iron artist, like his father, Artaserse.
The masterpieces of Artaserse adorn the house of Maceo Angeli….
….which we reached after our short walk
And I was soon to find out that Maceo was also a musician, wood-carver, poet, writer – and political activist.
Ginevra summed up her papa’: “What could my papa’ NOT do?” Ginevra asked me with a smile as she talked fondly with passione about him that day,
Husband Umberto and Ginevra in her bright red dress welcomed us with refreshments (photo below – thanks to the Facebook page of Museo della Memoria):
A book about Maceo Angeli was on the table near the refreshments….
…and one of the visitors, Daniela, pointed to the photo of a painting of Maceo in that book, telling me proudly, “E’ la nostra – e’ a casa nostra.” (“It’s ours – it is in our home.”)
On the wall behind Daniela and not far away, were portraits done by Maceo of a helper of his wrought-iron artist-father, Artaserse:
To the right of the portraits of the artisan-apprentice of Artaserse, a large painting by Maceo of a pelican backdropped our group listening in fascination to Ginevra’s memories of her papa’ Maceo:
…and one young visitor held up with glee a photo of bambina Ginevra perched on the lap of her mamma:
Marina Rosati, director of the Museo della Memoria, asked Ginevra about stories she had heard about Maceo as historian, Simone Pettirossi, standing nearby, listened – sometimes with amusement.
Maceo’s ebullient spirits and humor also came out in his art…and Ginevra recounted many an amusing Maceo anecdote to us.
She pointed out the playful carving on the door Maceo had sculpted in which he had depicted himself riding a donkey, dreamily strumming a lute as a dog barked at the perplexed donkey:
Simone shared with us insights into Maceo’s art as well as political activism, backdropped by Maceo artwork: his ceramic tiles of scenes of the “Canticle of the Creatures” of San Francesco.
Maceo’s tile of Sister Water was behind Simone on the left and Brother Son on his right. Below, the tile of Sister Moon and the Stars peeped out behind a blue-jacketed shoulder and a bit lower, Sister Wind, too, backdropped Simone as he recounted with admiration Maceo insights.
We learned that day that Maceo had never spoken about hiding some of the 300 Jewish refugees hidden in Asssisi, 1943 – 1944. “Totale silenzio era essenziale,” (“Total silence was essential”) Ginevra told us all. It is thought today that one hiding place he had used was Palazzo Spagnoli as he had a workshop near there,
Ginevra told us that she knew about his efforts only in the 1950’s “when various persons he had helped came to thank us.”
Now when walking the winding Assisi backstreets, I’ll be well aware of the treasures which might hide behind the medieval entryways, so characteristic of the Assisi urban architecture.
Grazie mille, Marina with Ginevra and Umberto, for a most special day.
A day of memory. A day to remember.
See this video about our visit to the medieval home of Maceo Angeli
See this short video of the Museo della Memoria commemorative event on January 27, 2023
Read about the event in Assisi on January 27th, “the Day of Remebrance”
(Marina Rosati, Director of Museo della Memoria with Ginevra Angeli)