The legend of the pirate Barbarossa is one of the most famous on the Amalfi Coast and celebrated the miracle of the patron saints in Amalfi and Salerno.
Admiral Barbarossa and the Saracen fleet
Let’s start by saying that Barbarossa, real name Khayr al-Dīn Barbarossa, said in Italic environment Ariadeno Barbarossa, was not a pirate. He was born in Mytilene, in 1478 and died in Constantinople in 1546. For his activities corsare in the Mediterranean was appointed by the Turkish emperor Suleiman first Ottoman admiral, Bey of Algiers and Tlemcen, and then in 1533 Qapudan Pascià, that is Supreme Commander of the Fleet Turkish military.
The war against the Italic states
From this moment the famous battles against the leader Andrea Doria begin then captain of the imperial fleet of Charles V of Spain.
Numerous are his incursions on the Italian coasts: Procida, Capri, Gaeta, Terracina, Sperlonga, the Tuscan, Calabrian, Sicilian and Apulian coasts.
They become historical episodes that will remain etched in the collective memory of these populations for many centuries still and up to the present day. Think of the oldest Neapolitan songs (Michelemma ‘) or the Church of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli in Agropoli built after the discovery of a statue of the Madonna in the sea that the Turks had tried to take away.
Barbarossa continually sent all the spoils of war to Constantinople, among them besides the enormous quantities of gold and slaves.
The great war ended with his death due to a “yellow fever” attack in 1546. Barbarossa was one of the greatest leaders of the time.
The siege in the Gulf of Salerno and the miracle of the two saints
In Salerno, Admiral Ariadeno Barbarossa, supreme commander of the Turkish military fleet, appears in the Gulf with his ships on June 27, 1544. And it is to be bet that someone shouted “Mamma Turchi them!”, An exclamation that starting from ‘400, with the constant Turkish threat, became part of Italian popular culture.
The Turkish ships arranged themselves in front of Salerno and Amalfi, to put them on fire, to strip them of their treasures and to draw the greatest number of prisoners from them. That day the sky was clear, the calm sea, not a breath of wind disturbed the quiet, but the danger that threatened the city as it approached the shore of the Turkish-loaded lifeboats was threatening. Many Salernitans ran to arms in the hope of resisting the invaders, others knowing the fame of Barbarossa’s cruelty fled to the nearby countryside, still others poured into the Cathedral to plead for the intervention of San Matteo. The Amalfitans did the same asking for help from their patron Saint Andrew.
The ferocious Turks had almost landed, when suddenly a storm of wind and water hit the Gulf. The ships no longer held anchor, so many of them collided sank, others were slammed on the shore, others dispersed in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The winds will fortunately prevent Barbarossa from attacking Salerno again, even though he is on his way to Capo Palinuro. For the Salernitans it was a miracle of their patron, the Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew, for the Amalfi of their patron, the Apostle Saint Andrew. According to the myth, the 2 Saints appeared in the sky of the Gulf of Salerno causing the storm that ended the Turkish siege, it was on this occasion that St. Matthew pronounced the famous phrase “Salerno is mine: I defend it”, but the old Salerno still tell today, that by the will of San Matteo, the 2 stone lions on the sides of the entrance portal to the Atrium of the Cathedral, came to life to drive away the invaders.
Following the alleged Miracle of San Matteo, it is known that in Salerno it was decided to insert the figure of the Evangelist in the emblem of the city; although there are those who have recently said that in the bell tower of San Matteo, among the various bells, the one dating from before 1544 bears the coat of arms of the city already inclusive of the image of the patron saint (a mystery to be clarified).
The feast of the miracle
On June 27 the feast of the patron Saint Andrew the Apostle is celebrated in Amalfi to remember the miracle of Barbarossa. In Salerno, on the other hand, the event is remembered with the Feast of Barbarossa with the famous raising of the cloth of San Matteo. The party continued to take place a few years after the end of the Second World War and then lost track of it.