While researching Echoes of War, I was fascinated to learn about the rich religious history of Calabria and the legends that accompany many of the religious sites. Calabria is famous for its religious festivals, especially involving the Madonna. In the village my family comes from, the festa happens in early September where a statue of the Madonna is taken in a procession from the church within the town to a tiny church dedicated to the Madonna of the Chain, situated on the road to the next village. It’s here that a mass is performed and the festival takes place for three days. I thought that it was odd for there to be a small church on its own between the two towns and then I heard about the story behind the church and statue. Legend has it that sometime in the middle ages, sailors found a chest on a nearby beach, containing an alabaster statue of the Madonna and baby Jesus, with a little black boy chained at her feet. They loaded the chest onto a cart, pulled by oxen and when they reached the fork in the road between the two villages, the oxen refused to go any further. The sailors believed that this was where the Madonna wanted her church to be built, on the border of the two villages, where the Church of the Madonna of the Chain was built. In my family’s village, a duplicate statue was made to be kept in the town church and brought in procession to the original at the church between the villages each year during the festival. The Madonna of the Chain, I discovered, is the Madonna of slaves and prisoners, who she protects and rescues. Considering Calabria’s long history of invasions and with these villages so close to the coast and Ionian Sea with marauders attacking, I can see why this particular Madonna is of such significance. I remember a picture of this same Madonna on my grandmother’s bedroom wall when I was a child but I could never understand why she was holding a little black boy in chains. Now it makes more sense and I’m amazed to think that in this one single image, the rich culture and long history of Calabria is embodied so fully.