CULTURE AND TOURISM ON-LINE MAGAZINE
- FEBRUARY 2018 -
HOME - Puglia - Dialect Proverbs - Nothing can beat wine-Christ’s blood. When folk wisdom is “differently sophisticated”
Dialect Proverbs
Nothing can beat wine-Christ’s blood.
When folk wisdom is “differently sophisticated”
È u vére ca re carne de Criste so’ preziose frutte
Ma u sanghe de Criste è cchiù sàupe de tutte

[It’s true that the body of Christ is a precious fruit
but the blood of Christ is above all else]
(Ruvo di Puglia)
by Alberto Sobrero
SHARE Facebook Twitter

Bruno Maggio. China

This proverb straddles the fine line which, in folk culture, divides orthodoxy from irreligion. It is part of the mass of evidence showing that two worlds, by definition diametrically opposed, can not only coexist but also in many cases blend effortlessly in the ancient peasant world: a world that is religious but at the same time superstitious, practical and disenchanted, perennially hovering between heaven and earth.

There is nothing more theoretically sophisticated, in catholic theology, than the principle of transubstantiation, namely the conversion of the substance of bread and wine into that of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the liturgy of the Holy Mass. This question over the centuries has been the crux of a war between brothers which even led to the split of the Lutherans from the Catholic church: one side maintained that in the rite of consecration, the bread and wine did not change their nature, while the other side maintained that they are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, using extremely complex doctrinal arguments.

Such a traumatic event in the history of the whole of Europe could not occur without leaving its mark in folk culture. But how could such complex, abstract doctrinal analyses enter the culture of the common people? Only by translating from the abstract to the concrete, from theology to everyday life. The plastic representation of transubstantiation could only come about through concrete images: in this particular case, the images of bread and wine on the one hand and of the body and blood on the other.

But once the subjects under discussion have been identified, how can the debate between incomprehensible theories be transformed into a problem that can be understood, examined and solved using the means of practical culture? Our proverb reveals one of the possible strategies, and it is a very interesting discovery. It shows us a sophisticated procedure, divided into three steps:

a) it starts with a ‘transubstantiation in reverse’: it is the body that becomes bread and the blood that becomes wine. The protagonists of the debate thus become the bread and wine;

b) the problem is approached like a contest, with a winner and a loser. At this point the match is a pushover: between bread and wine there is no contest, wine wins hands down;

c) the wine is now ‘re-converted’ into ‘Christ’s blood’ and the bread into ‘Christ’s body’, re-establishing the initial situation, and the result of the contest is announced: È u vére ca re carne de Criste so’ preziose frutte / ma u sanghe de Criste è cchiù sàupe de tutte (It’s true that the body of Christ is a precious fruit, but the blood of Christ is above all else).

A theological problem, which could not be any more theological, has found a secular solution, which could not be any more secular.

This is a perfect example, a clear demonstration that folk wisdom is not simple, poor and naive, but quite the opposite: it is sophisticated, but it merely follows different paths than theological wisdom, which for a great many historical reasons, is far more familiar to us. In the terminology in use today, it isn’t uncouth: it is differently sophisticated.

More articles
Dialect Proverbs   Wives and oxen… Dialect Proverbs   That bad reputation priests have… Dialect Proverbs   Goat Woman From the Middle Ages to Sgarbi Dialect Proverbs   “After Christmas the cold sets in” The meteorological proverbs that have deeper roots than religious ones Dialect Proverbs   A fantastic state-of-the-art teaching tool: the nursery-rhyme Dialect Proverbs   When parody flouts the sacred Dialect Proverbs   Happiness depends on how we manage our time Dialect Proverbs   If the branch indicates quality… Dialect Proverbs   Women, what deceivers! Dialect Proverbs   Back when the proverb was dictated by the calendar... Dialect Proverbs   Be prepared for disappointment! Dialect Proverbs   Hands off the female sex! Dialect Proverbs   That lack of faith in science… Dialect Proverbs   To get to heaven… you have to suffer Dialect Proverbs   From poetry to “prose” This is love Dialect Proverbs   …But Love is Hope Dialect Proverbs   “Verba volant” What has changed between then and now Dialect Proverbs   From the philosophy of Heraclitus to Vasco’s rock music “everything flows” Dialect Proverbs   Beyond the garden there are “the others”. The hateful prejudice dies hard Dialect Proverbs   Hypocrites? More dangerous than the kick of a mule Dialect Proverbs   The revenge of cooking ‘poor man’s style’ Dialect Proverbs   Troubles? Let everyone take care of their own Dialect Proverbs   What “Eldorado”?! Dialect Proverbs   Peasant wisdom The State should consider it too Dialect Proverbs   …And so the idler’s week goes by Dialect Proverbs   Don’t fly into a rage if you want to keep healthy Dialect Proverbs   Rather an “old hand” than a “know-it-all” Dialect Proverbs   If a “poor man” falls ill there’s no hope Dialect Proverbs   The harsh law of hunger Dialect Proverbs   Our first lesson in life? In a nursery rhyme Dialect Proverbs   Man and woman: an old proverb – incredible! – is in favor of equality. As far as hitting each other is concerned… Dialect Proverbs   Women? Witches who lead you to the gallows To be used for love and child-bearing Dialect Proverbs   Marriage: what a sentence for men! Dialect Proverbs   Women “diabolical carriers of perdition” Dialect Proverbs   Women Closer to the devil than to holy water Dialect Proverbs   The longstanding diffidence of the people towards “the caste” Dialect Proverbs   A playful rhyme for the bitter fatalism of underlings Dialect Proverbs   The over-privileged who wield the money: a never-ending story Dialect Proverbs   That hateful prejudice towards anyone different Dialect Proverbs   The power of the poor Dialect Proverbs   If “you add a place at the table”… Dialect Proverbs   The unwritten laws of social injustice Dialect Proverbs   The arrogance of the flea-man Dialect Proverbs   Authority and subjects A relationship without hope Dialect Proverbs   Fatalism of the weak Dialect Proverbs   Why proverbs