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Rarely, we will find a song more popular in Italy. Used during the banquet of every wedding, feast or gathering together of friends. “Libiamoci” di Verdi, but better know as”Brindiamoci”, Let’s drink together. But why Italians are using the expression “Let’s have a Brindisi” if they want to toast? and then they lift their glasses and saying “cin cin !” This tradition has an intriguing story ...
Brindisi is an Italian city in the south of the country at the end of the Appian Way, the mother of all roads.
The Roman road, which starts in Rome in the direction of Napoli, crossing the mountain chain of the Apennines for finishing in the heal of Italy in Puglia. At the very beginning of the road, in the Parco della Caffarella(at a few yards from my house) there is a little, very well preserved temple of the ancient roman god Rediculus. No, no !, not ridiculous!, but rediculous. The name of the god tells you his function. This divinity was probably one of Rome's lares, a protector-god of the city. He is said to have appeared to Hannibal as he was camped outside Rome in 211 B.C., urging him to return (redire) to Carthage. The Roman historian Sextus Festus' account of the incident reports that Hannibal, nearing the city, saw apparitions in the air, filling him with dread and induced him to return(redire) southward immediately:
Rediculi fanum extra portam Capenam fuit, quia accedens ad Urbem Hannibal ex eo loco redierit quibusdam perterritus visis.
The [temple] of Rediculus was [outside] the Porta Capena; it was so called because Hannibal, when on the march from Capua, turned back at that spot, being alarmed at certain portentous visions.
A place on the Appian road, near the second mile-stone from the city, was called Campus Rediculi (Plin. H. N. xliii. 60. § 122 ; Propert. iii. 3, 11). In a fragment of Varro (ap. Non. p. 47), the god calls himself Tutanus, i. e., the god who keeps safe.
The name of the god is coming from the latin verb: redire/reducta.
It is a god that brings you safe back home. (he was also called Tutanus-Protector) He was represent as an old man who carried a little child on his shoulder. He’s the prototype of the traveller, the tourist. This is of course a very ancient idea: Didn’t it happened that after the fire in Troy, Aeneas took his father (Anchises)on his shoulder and conducted safely his son Ascanius Julius , who hold the house-gods (penati) and the eternal fire in his hands, on their journey to Latium. Seven generations later, one of the daughters was a priestess of the Vestal Vergins, responsible for the eternal fire, and her name was Rea Silvia .... the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
And, Of course, before you start such a dangerous journey to the south of Italy, you have to worship the God of the good return, Rediculus. A little candle would do it, a small prayer ... and of course, there would be the priest of the temple who asked you for a small donation. Consider that money as you insurance premium for a safe journey.
Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598 - Galleria Borghese- Rome
A brindisi with Champagne?
Celebrating something and having a toast and a “Brindisi” together brings me to the next ...
I believe that the most popular drink for a toast or a Brindisi, and as speaking of today, one of the brands that has name protection even in China (where they are copying as much as they can do so), is Champagne. Since June 2013, on request of the CIVC (Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne), the Republic of the people of China registered officially the IGP (indication géographique) of the
name Champagne. It is only the fourth brand that became official after Cognac, Scotch whisky and Napa
Valley. Knowing that China is an enormous and expansive market, today it is the fifth consumer worldwide of Champagne. While in 2001 they consumed only 50 000 bottles of it, last year we got to the peak of over two million bottles, and the export from Reims of those lovely bubbles increased last year with 50 %. And there is still space for growing. It is not allowed any more in China to bring a simul fizzy drink on the market under the name Champagne. I am sure that the people in France will be happy to have this label juridical protected.
But I always questioned myself in which kind of glass you would drink Champagne? Is it the “coppa” or the “flute”.
And than, one after the other happened .....
In Antwerp were a lot of exhibitions 350 years after the famous flemish painter Pieter Pauwel Rubens died in 1640. During that year I read the letters of Rubens. Surprisingly, many were written in Italian, so much he loved that culture. But two years before his dead, he wrote a letter in flemish to his dear friend Lucas Fayd’herbe. But now, so may years later, I couldn’t find that letter anymore. Therefore, I give special thanks to Dott.ssa Leen Huet who retrieved this letter for me !
In this letter he tells his friend that he is sorry that on his return from France, he couldn’t find the Vin d’Ay, but that, nonetheless, he has some quite remarkable bottles with him. I got intrigued by this wine of Ay.
As others did before him, (like Breughel), he often translated the flemish proverbs in paintings. And here we have a work of 1633: A festival of monkeys. The proverb (in dutch: Wat baten kaars en bril als den uil niet en zien en wil), is painted on a pergamum at the entrance of the blue tent: An owl, symbol of wisdom in Athens, has spectacles on, holding in its legs a book and is illuminated by a candle for reading it.The proverb depicts the vanity of the world. What matters it for the owl that he has a book, spectacles and a candle? He can look smart and intelligent and being the symbol of wisdom for Athens, but it is and always will be remain an animal that can’t read !!!!
The proverb is presented by a group of monkeys, dressed like princes of the beginning of the 17th century, who are eating, drinking and playing the dies, just like princes would do... But that does not change the fact that they are monkeys, and even acting like princes, they will always remain monkeys. Underneath the owl is written on the pergamum “Bon vin d’Ay”, and we can see how the monkey is holding up a champagne-flute glass .... but with red wine ????
It was the flute-glass that was used for champagne !!!
The wine Rubens was looking for on his way back from France.
Now, Yes, I now got intrigued...
And more happened! I watched one of the old James Bond movies. And on a certain point James Bond got in a castle in Scotland and was offered the best wine of the cellar. The butler went down the steps, searched for the best bottle, and walked back on the steps. On the wall of cellar, running up with the steps were the wooden boards of the of the boxes of wine. And exactly when the butler was at the hight were was the plaque of the “Vin d’Ay”, he stumbled, fell down and broke the bottle.
The best bottle of the cellar was gone for ever.... that Vin d'Ay must have been something special.
What is it with that wine of Ay, and where is it coming from? It happened to be a wine of the Champagne region. Pliny the Elder praises the champagne drink with quote “wines of Ay”. In 92, Domitian ordered the uprooting of vines Champagne. This protectionist measure is lifted by Probus in 280.
Benedictine abbeys of the region played an important role in the expansion of the vine, such as abbeys of Saint Basle and Hautvillers founded in the 7th century. Verzy in the Montagne de Reims, is a wine-growing town in the year 700. During the Middle Ages, the vineyard is gaining notoriety thanks to the famous fairs of Champagne, but until the Renaissance it mainly provides quiet reds.
The sparkling wines were highly appreciated by various sovereigns, Francis (whose house Ivernel in Ay, still holds a press), Charles V, the Pope Urban II and Leo X. Henri IV, who owned a press still visible near the church of Saint Brice, particularly liked the title "Sir Ay." And the Medici popes owned the vineyards of Ay. They didn’t lost their commercial interest by becoming the spiritual leaders of Christianity. They started to export there vin d’Ay to all the royal courts of Europe: the Tsar dronk it, the king of England ...
Everybody who wanted to show off that he was important and trendy had Vin d’Ay in his cellar for special occasions.
And here we see monkeys, dressed like kings, drinking Vin d’Ay. made in the champagne region, in flutes like kings .... but nonetheless, they will always remain monkeys, even if they adopt the lifestyle of the kings. Today, the Vin d’Ay still exists, and only in exceptional good years, they are producing from their grapes not the classical champagne, but an excellent red wine ..... bottled with a champagne-cork. Being produced only in small quantities, it became over the years a nice collecting-item.
So lets say: Brindiamoci and cin cin on your health !!!!
(Thanks to my friend Sharon Howard, who inspired me with her questions to write this article...)
Temple of the god Rediculus, Parco della Caffarella Roma
Image of Saint Christopher
And in my further research I was lucky !!! It happened that I looked on internet. at an auction of an old flemish master, David Teniers the Younger.
The best of story came soon after that: The catholic church, who took over the whole organization of the Roman Empire created a saint for travelers: Saint Christopher. But listen to his name: Christus - ferre: the man who is carrying Christ. Saint Christopher is depicted as an old man who is carrying the child Jesus on his shoulder .... the same way as the old pagan roman god Rediculus who carried a baby on his shoulder for a safe trip. Pope Paul VI removed his feast day, celebrated on the 25th of July, from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in his 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis. At that time the church declared that this commemoration was not of Roman Catholic tradition, but his feast is still observed locally .... and also the money of the insurance-company is still rolling in and even today, everywhere they are selling the image of saint Christopher as the protector of travelers and tourists to cub-drivers, coach-drivers a.s.o.
And your travel insurance does not finish here. A lot of roman jewelry like rings, earrings and pendants have a roman coin. It was the kind of jewelry that man and women all alike would wear during their traveling. Even if you were covered by the insurance-premium of the god Rediculus, it was not a 100 % guaranteed. You could fall ill, having an accident and in the worst scenario, you could die during your travel. When that happened, they would bury or cremate the person. But before, they would put the coin of your ring, neckless or pendant under your tongue. That you will need in your journey to the other world. Isn’t it that you have to cross the river the Styx or the Hades? And the cerberus dog of the god Hades with three heads would watch in every direction for being sure you paid your tax for crossing the river.
This pagan tradition lives on until today in the Roman Catholic Church. When the Pope dies, in his coffin they would place one of each of the coins minted during his reign.
P. P. RUBENS A Mr LUCAS FAYD'HERBE
Lieve wel beminde M. Lucas,
Ick hope dat u desen noch sal tot Antwerpen vinden, want ick grootelijcken van noode hebbe een panned daer cl rij troniën op staen, soo groot als het leven, van mijn handt; te wetene : eenen grammen soldaet met een swarte mutse op 't hooft, ende een crijtende manstronie ende eenen lacher. Gij suit mij groote vriendschappe doen, met dit selvige panned terstont over te senden, oft, ist ghij ghereet sijt om selver te comen, mede te brenghen. Ende het sal goet sijn dat men daer een of twee nieuwe panneelen op bint, omdat het niet en soude quetsen onderweghen oft ghesien worden. Ons duncke, vriendt, dat wij niet en vernemen van de flessen met vin d'Ay, want den ghenen die wij mede droeghen is al wt.
Waer mede UB. wenschende ghesontheyt, ende aen Lijntken ende Susanna dierghelijcx, blijve ick wt ganscher harten,
Mr Lucas UE. dienstwillighen vriendt Pieïro Pauolo Rubens
Wt Steen den 17 Augusty Anno 1638.
Publié par F. Jos van Den Branden, Geschiedenis der Anhverpsche Schilder school, page 576, d'après la copie de J. B. van der Straelen, qui lui-même l'avait transcrïte de l'autographe appartenant de son vivant a Louis-Joseph Fayd'herbe, prêtre a Malines, descendant de Luc Fayd'herbe.
Pieter Pauwel Rubens
David Teniers the Younger
Arriving in Brindisi, in the south of Italy, you will find an other temple of the same god Rediculus. Bigger, heavier candles, more intense prayers ... and also a larger donation was requested. Your insurance premium was higher, because also the risks were higher. Didn’t you have to take a ship from Brindisi to Greece or Egypt?? If your donation to the local priest would have been abundant, he would offer you a glass of his homemade wine.
Glass, an invention in the north of Africa during the Roman era, was a very precious and expensive item. They didn’t want to brake the glasses by clinging them to each other. So, they lifted only their glass with wine, looked each other in the eyes and said “cin cin” evoking the sound as you would cling the glasses against each other. One “cin” was for wishing good luck in your journey, the other one was for a good return. That’s the origin of the the expression Let’s have a brindisi, and we say “cin cin”!
Many roman jewelry items have coins. People would wear them if travelling. If something bad happened, and you died, you would have the money needed with you for paying Charon the cross-over of the Styx or the Hades. See also below.