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Ex votos

It is a tradition all over southern Italy to promise a thing of value to a saint in exchange for a "grazia ricevuta", a favor received, often a cure. Those who could afford it often bought silver miniature bas relief replicas of the body part which received the grace. They pin them to the vestments of statues of their favorite saints, or hang them from slim satin ribbons tied to the saint. Among the strangest I have seen were a woman's derriere ( in production at the Amato silver shop in Palermo) and a three-dimensional silver hypodermic needle ( in a church in Piazza Gesu` in old Naples). One who knows told me that after forty or fifty years, most of them are melted down, the silver sold to pay for maintenance of shrines and repairs. Some, like the precious and rare hand-beaten ones, may be sold and the price gotten used for maintenance. I have often wondered how many are purloined somewhere along the line. I have a suspicious mind.
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