Ere long you enter the wild mountain-pass of Despeña-Perros. A sudden turn in the road brings you to a stone column, surmounted by an iron cross, marking the boundary line between La Mancha and Andalusia. Upon one side of this column is carved a sorry-looking face, not unlike the death’s-heads on the tombstones of a country church-yard. Over it is written this inscription : “EL VERDADERO RETRATO DE LA SANTA CARA DEL DIOS DE XAEN,” — The true portrait of the holy countenance of the God of Xaen! I was so much struck with this strange superscription that I stopped to copy it.
“Do you really believe that this is what it pretends to be?” said I to a muleteer, who was watching my movements.
“I don’t know,” replied he, shrugging his brawny shoulders; “they say it is.”
“Who says it is ?”
“The priest, — the Padre Cura”.
“I supposed so. And how was this portrait taken?”
He could not tell. The Padre Cura knew all about it.
When I joined my companions, who were a little in advance of me with the carriage, I got the mystery explained. The Catholic Church boasts of three portraits of our Saviour, miraculously preserved upon the folds of a handkerchief, with which St. Veronica wiped the sweat from his brow, on the day of the crucifixion. One of these is at Toledo, another in the kingdom of Xaen, and the third at Rome.
The impression which this monument of superstition made upon my mind was soon effaced by the magnificent scene which now burst upon me. The road winds up the mountain-side with gradual ascent; wild, shapeless, gigantic crags overhang it upon the right, and upon the left the wary foot starts back from the brink of a fearful chasm hundreds of feet in depth.
H.W. Longfellow, The Pilgrim’s Breviary, in Outre-Mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea, 1835.
|Testo in italiano|
Longfellow è tra i più grandi scrittori americani di ogni tempo. Intorno al 1862 insieme ai letterati James Russell Lowell, Oliver W. Holmes e George Washington Greene diede vita al cosiddetto “Circolo Dante”, atto a promuovere la conoscenza della Divina Commedia negli Stati Uniti. Insieme ai suoi colleghi del circolo, Longfellow ne portò a termine la prima traduzione statunitense in inglese nel 1867. Il Circolo diventò la “Dante Society”, una delle più famose associazioni di dantisti nel mondo.
La stessa colonna è stata descritta da Alexandre Dumas père, nelle Impressions de voyage: De Paris à Cadix del 1847.
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