Italy, our Motherland!


Sathya Sai Central Council of Italy (Rome November 30, 2007)



Hic manebimus optime. 1

(Here we'll stay excellently)


It is not easy to describe in a few lines the characteristics of an entire population and it becomes even more difficult to do it, if the population we want to talk about is so peculiar,  so rich of history, art and spirituality as the italian one is. We are talking about a population which origins mix themselves up with the ones of the European Civilisation and which history symbolically follows the very western history, with its lights and  shadows,  peaks and abysses.

The Italy of today is very far away from the pomp of the past, from those heroic, artistic and religious ideals which have made it famous in the whole world. It has lost much of the luster, strenght and beauty it once had, but the Divine Master has taught us that under every circumstance, even during times of crisis and decadence like the ones we are  going through today, we should always love our Motherland... and this is exactly what we do!

In these pages we are willing to introduce you to the glorious and eternal image of Italy as it  has been written in the annals of time, from which it periodically comes down into History, whenever appears a generation that is able to evoke its grandiosity and to embody its value. This is Italy, our timeless Italy... our Motherland!


First Part: the Mith of Rome


Tu regere imperio populus, Romane, memento.
Hae tibi erunt artes:
pacisque imponere morem, parcere subiectis
et debellare superbos. 2


"But you, Roman, remember to rule the peoples with power
(these will be your arts);
impose the habit of peace, spare the conquered
and battle down the proud!"


It is very probable that populations of boreal-western origin  (their traces can be found in the bucolic rock drawings of the Val Camonica) appeared in Italy before the celtic migrations and before the instauration of the etruscan cycle. Their meaning towards the autoctone populations can be compared to the appearance of the Acheians and the Dorians in Greece or to the Arians' emergence in India. It is possible that the latin population had been a vein  survived to such nucleuses, which came back to the surface and mixed with other italic populations. Rome, the city that resumed the fate of the whole western world for centuries, rose among them in 753 B.C.

In an Italy inhabited by a huge variety of different populations - this is the condition of the 'peninsula' on the eve of the foundation of Rome (the Urbe)- suddenly a new group appears that goes against everybody and doesn't adapt itself to any previously established cult, habit or right. Rome wants to assert its own laws and a new principle that owns the strenght of subdueing everything and of spreading with the energy and determination that only the big forces of History are able to act with.

Rome embodies the idea of solar virility and expresses the mistery of a sacred regality, a mystic force of command -  strictly connected with the indoeuropean symbolism of fire - to which the roman ethic of honour and fidelity is bound. This force distinguishes the Romans from all the other populations present in the peninsula at those times, which were passively following the dictates of fate and were therefore marked by the Romans as barbarians (uncivilized). 

The Romans were active, concrete, ready to realize their ideas and they despised rethoric and superfluous luxuries. They did not accept to bend themselves, not even in front of the gods. They had a very clear idea about human relations, which on their opinion should exclude any form of servile dedication. They belonged to a solar descent with rich qualities of character and they attributed the most importance to the virtus, 3 to value 4 and to loyalty, courage and fidelity. They strongly felt the importance of keeping their word. 

All these values got first transformed and then flew into the Christian Religion, which was then just beginning to rise. After the barbaric invasions and the collapse of the Roman Empire new values emerged. More exactly, the ancient values, which had survived with difficulty to the dissolution of the previous age, were  getting transformed and taken again into consideration. The Church, originally risen out of the opposition to the aristocratic world of Rome's imperial era, was now westernizing and romanizing itself, becoming the heir of the classical culture with the aim of better rooting in its new seat. 

In the period known as the High Middle Ages, the Church of Rome, rather than  a spiritual movement, was a political and administrative center of the society. It succeeded in keeping the western Christianity united under the barbarian dominations and even in converting and assimilating the conquerors.

The european civilisation has therefore an incalculable debt towards the Roman Church, which through the work done in cloisters and monasteries in the course of centuries has carried out an immense action of preservation of the classical culture.  Italy can be considered  as a mater and magistra (mother and teacher) of this work.  As a matter of fact Saint Benedict of Norcia, father of the european monasticism, was the founder of the first monasteries in Subiaco and Montecassinofrom which the civilizing mission of the benedictine monks spread to the entire continent.

Italy, which in the past had been a land of conquerors and colonizers, in the Middle Ages becomes a land of Saints end hermits. Abbeies and monasteries rise everywhere becoming focal points in which the classical inheritance is kept, studied and passed on to the posterity. The nature of the builders and colonizers of the roman descent is born again and gives life to immense works of land reclamation, deforestation and canalisation for the benefit of the local populations and of the entire european civilisation.

In this way the mith of Rome passes on through the centuries and its civilizing mission perpetuates itself in time.


Second Part: the Communes [Town Councils] Civilisation

Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza. 5


“Consider Ye the seed from which Ye sprang;
Ye were not made to live like unto brutes,
but for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.”


Next to the uninterrupted tradition of the Roman Civilisation, embodied by the pagan Rome and reborn into the christian Rome, from the Low Medieval Italy emerges the civilisation of the Commune [Town Council], which importance for art, literature and spirituality has until today remained unsurpassed. 6

In its sicilian Court the emperor Federico II, an initiated, founded a School of Arts, Literature and Religion where jewish, islamic and christian scholars could work together in an atmosphere of deep respect and harmony. 7 This experience precedes the great communal season which starts in Tuscany and Umbria in the 11th century and lasts until the end of the following century through Dante Alighieri's Stilnovo poetry, the Painting School of Giotto  and the spiritual teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi.

It is not possible to summarize in a few words the impact of these figures, different expressions of the same spirituality that lays its foundations in Tuscany and Umbria, on the italian history. We will limit ourselves to find the common points of these three personalities.  We will do so following the steps of the 'Divine Poet'; he will be the one who will lead and introduce us to the other two giants of those luminous time.

Dante Alighieri is the central figure of this period and of the whole italian civilisation. In his works he resumes the main artistic and religious characteristics of his time and sublimates them in the Divine Comedy, which contains all the major traits of the art and spirituality of the Medieval Italy: the amor cortese (gentle love), the nobility of the soul, the cult of the woman-angel and the political and religious ideal of the Imperium.

The symbol of this new spirituality is the figure of Beatrice, the woman-angel, Dante's ideal woman. In his youth he writes for her many poems in the style of the poesia cortese (gentle poetry). 8

Beatrice ennobles and refines the soul of whomever she meets.

In the Paradise (the third part of the Divine Comedy) Beatrice symbolizes Knowledge and Love, two qualities that lead Dante and (through Dante himself) the humankind towards God. According to the political vision of Dante, only the union of the spiritual power (represented by the Cross) and the temporal power (represented by the Eagle) can guarantee an happy and prosperous life in Society. Spirituality, regality and, expecially, art are the thread that connect Dante to Romanity through the figures of Virgil  (author of the epic poem 'Aeneid') and Aeneas (initiator of the Traditions of the Forefathers).

Giotto 9was the painter of reality and truth and  expressed in a marvelous way the spirit of his time. In his paintings the earthly reality is transfigurated,  incorporeal, a symbol and a testimony of the spiritual truths. In the Paradise some of Dante's characters have a body of light; Giotto creates in his paintings trascendental figures. The creations of both have the same kind of tenderness and are real and spiritual at the same time: they are an evidence of the spontaneous affinity existing between the two.

Dante and Giotto,  which have brought the truth of reality, respectively, into literature and painting, were two brilliant personalities. The same deep, spiritual affinity exists between Dante and the Saint Jester of God, as Saint Francis of Assisi  is called. Without Francis Italy and Europe would have not become what they are today.

Dante's admiration for the Saint of Assisi is testified in many verses of the Divine Comedy. It's through this admiration for Francis that Dante praises poverty intended as detachment and liberation from earthly things. Dante thought that the moral decadence of its time was deriving its strenght from the greed of the class of the merchants, which had given up the chivalrous values, the valori cortesi typical for the feudal mentality to which Dante belonged. 

Dante set Francis as an ideal, with the aim of providing an example to be followed for people to find the original Gospel's purity and innocence. These values identified with the spiritual Francescanism, which was waiting for the advent of the Holy Spirit's third age, in which the church would spiritualize itself and the world would get to know eternal Peace and Love.

Dante, Giotto and Francis were three different expressions of that same season of art and spirituality that testifies the greatness of the italian civilisation. It is from the evolution and trasformation of that season that was born the golden age of italian culture, in which art particularly blossomed: the Renaissance.


Third Part: the Renaissance


Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts –
the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art.
Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others,
but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.
(John Ruskin)


The word Renaissance was coined for the first time by the florentine humanists to point out the rebirth of the ancient greek and roman cultures.  Renaissance is a synonym of figurative, architectonic, poetic and literary art but it is also a synonym of Italy, because the peninsula has been a propulsion centre from which the culture of Renaissance has spread to the whole Europe and to the entire world.

The italian rinascimental culture is the culture of Beauty, where for Beauty man means also Goodness, in accordance with the ancient greek concept  Kalòs kai Agathòs (identity between beautiful and good). These two qualities identify with each other and disappear into one another. There cannot be beauty without goodness, nor goodness without beauty, because that which is beautiful is also good and vice versa:  rinascimental artists and thinkers knew it very well and when they intended to build The City of  Man  they always kept in mind also The City of God, the spiritual matrix that originates every human achievement.  

Artists like Donatello, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and the matchless Leonardo testify not only the magnificence of italian art but also and especially the importance that the aesthetic experience has always had for the harmonious development of the human personality. 

Besides painting, sculpture, architecture and literature in the Renaissance blossomed also the Minor Arts, without comparison neither with the previous nor with the following centuries.

This blossoming concerned all the major italian cities: Florence, Bologna, Padua, Milan, eaples, Rome, Ferrara, Mantova, Urbino... almost all the Town Councils of the peninsula. The Renaissance was not a peculiarly italian fenomena but it originated and developed mostly in Italy: Italians have been the pioneers of the Renaissance. French, Spanish, English and Dutch later developed it and took it as a base for the Modern Age, this Age of Conscience that sets freedom before all other virtues and frees humanity from all beliefs, dogmas and religious authorities.

In this period man was going away from traditions, entering the petty labyrinth in which the mind is deified and the custom - the ancient mos maiorum (the ways of the ancestors) - of the Romans is irreparably lost. At the same time he was also undertaking the path of quest, sperimentation and verification of every achievement  at the light of the personal experience.

This path  was marked by that principle of freedom that one day would bring man to discover the Human Values that innerly dwell inside the heart of each one of us and that the Divine Master, with His teachings, has come to awaken in the entire mankind. His Mission will lead the contemporary age to deeply recognize the Divine in man so that the world will be finally One in the brotherhood of men and the Fatherhood of God.


Nova erigere, vetera servare; utrique inter se convenientibus.


 Om Sai Ram


Rome, November 30, 2007



1 [According to Titus Livius this latin  phrase was pronounced by Marcus Furius Camillus, addressing the senators who intended to abandon the city, invaded by Gauls, in 390 BCE circa. It is used today to express the intent to keep one's position even if the circumstances appear adverse]

2 [This is Anchises's great exposition to Aeneas of Rome civilizing mission in the Aeneid of Vergil ( Publius Vergilius Maro), (Book 6, lines 852-853)]

3 [the latin word virtus for the Romans did not carry the same overtones as the Christian 'virtue'. But like the Greek andreia, virtus  had  the primary meaning of  'acting like a man'. This meant for them,  first and foremost,  'acting like a brave man in military matters']

4[which was to be found in the context of 'outstanding deeds' ( egregia facinora)]

5 [ Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), La Divina Commedia; Inferno, Canto XXVI, 118]

6 [Communes in Europe in the Middle Ages were sworn allegiances of mutual defense (both physical defense and of traditional freedoms) among community members of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread phenomenon. They had the greater development in central-northern Italy, where they were real city-states based on partial democracy]

7 [ Federico II of Svevia , was called Stupor Mundi, "the wonder of the world" for its extraordinary philosophical, scientific and astrological culture. At his court, in Palermo, was born the Italian literature, with the "Sicilian Poetic School". He was victorious in his fights against the Italian Communes and the German barons; he organized the IV Crusade and in the 1228 he was crowned king in Jerusalem. He equipped Sicily with an extraordinary defensive net, with castles like Maniace (Syracuse), Ursino (Catania), Augusta and Salemi.]

8 [ 'My lady looks so gentle and so pure', translated into English by D.G.Rossetti (1828-1882), is a Dante’s poem that plenty expresses the ideals of the poesia cortese:

My lady looks so gentle and so pure * When yielding salutation by the way,
That the tongue trembles and has naught to say, * And the eyes, which fain would see, may not endure.
And still, amid the praise she hears secure * She walks with humbleness for her array;
Seeming a creature sent from Heaven to stay * On earth, and show a miracle made sure.
She is so pleasant in the eyes of men * That through the sight the inmost heart doth gain
A sweetness which needs proof to know it by: * And from between her lips there seems to move
A soothing essence that is full of Love, * Saying for ever to the spirit, "Sigh!"]

 9 [ Giotto di Bondone (ca 1267 - January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance]