The family always knew that my great-grandfather was from Prata. Once I started researching the 19th century Italian civil records, however, I learned that his grandfather (also named Pellegrino Vitale) had been born in the next town over, Pratola Serra, and moved to Prata when he married Anna Maria Tenneriello in 1854. Today we went to visit Pratola Serra. Unfortunately, many of the older parts of town were destroyed in an earthquake in 1980. One of the buildings that is still standing is the church in the center of town, built in 1762.
Inside the church, behind glass, is a mannequin representing Saint Anselm. The mannequin contains relics in the arm and both legs, which are visible in cut-out sections. Relics are small, preserved body parts of saints. When I first learned about relics in the 6th grade of Catholic school, I was pretty creeped out. I’m still thinking it’s a pretty creepy practice. But the mannequin is also wearing an authentic Roman uniform, which was genuinely fascinating and not at all creepy.