2

In Pirandello's novel "Il fu Mattia Pascal" a fictional church is featured, named Santa Maria Liberale. That must mean that Mr. Pirandello took "Liberale" as a title of either Virgin Mary, or some other St. Mary I do not know of. But does this term have any religious signification or reference, a relationship to an event or a commonly recognised quality, like e. g. "Assunta" in "Santa Maria Assunta" refers to a specific event, the Assumption? I failed to find any.

Thank you.

4
  • 1
    I've found “Santa Maria della Libera” in Aquino, “Santa Maria Segreta” in Milan, “Santa Maria Alemanna” in Messina. There is no religious meaning.
    – egreg
    Aug 26 at 16:17
  • 3
    There are lots and lots of possible of adjectives after “Santa Maria” in Italian churches' names, either relative to Mary herself (Addolorata, Ausiliatrice, Egiziaca, Formosa, Gloriosa, Liberatrice, Odigitria...) or to the church (Maggiore, Novella...), often relative to just a single church and not too transparent unless one knows something of the church itself (and I might well have misplaced some adjective among the two lists). So probably Pirandello, having to invent a church's name, just chose a generic, not-too-unlikely adjective (its original meaning is “noble, generous”).
    – DaG
    Aug 26 at 17:09
  • 1
    Thank you very much, I see. So, the question of naming is often one that pertains to the church itself, to the circumstances of its edification etc, so that names may indeed vary a lot.
    – Evgeniy
    Aug 26 at 17:21
  • 3
    Adding on top of what others already said, sometimes what follows a saint name is simply the surname, as there are other saints with the same name. For example "Santa Maria Maddalena" and "Santa Maria Goretti", are pretty much always indicated with their full names, in order to avoid any confusion with the "Santa Maria", mother of Jesus.
    – secan
    Aug 27 at 8:58
6

In Italian churches' names of the form “Santa Maria [something]” there are innumerable possible “somethings”, which one can roughly divide into three categories:

  • adjectives (or other phrases) relative to Mary herself (Addolorata, Ausiliatrice, Egiziaca, Formosa, Gloriosa, Liberatrice, Odigitria...), which may or may not have a relation to specifically religious attributes or qualities of the mother of Jesus;

  • adjectives (or other phrases) relative to that that church (Maggiore, Novella, Segreta...), often with no specific religious meaning, but rather mentioning something pertaining the history of the place;

  • surnames or adjectives relative to a specific saint, since there are other “Maria”. For example, “Santa Maria Maddalena” and “Santa Maria Goretti” are pretty much always indicated with their full names, in order to avoid any confusion with the "Santa Maria", mother of Jesus.

Especially the first two categories include phrases that can refer to just a single church and not be too transparent unless one knows something of the church itself (and I might well have misplaced some adjective among the two lists of examples).

So, one may guess that Pirandello, having to invent a church's name, just chose a generic, not-too-unlikely adjective (the original meaning of liberale being “noble, generous”).

In this answer I have included contributions from egreg's and secan's comments.
6
  • You might want to amend the error I made in my comment referring to "Maddalena" as a surname when it is actually an adjective indicating her origin ("Maddalena" => "from Magdala"). Another "Santa Maria" who is indicated with the surname is "Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello", if you need a different example. While another "Santa Maria" who is indicated with her origin is "Santa Maria di Betania". And with this last note, I declare the end of my career as hagiographer. :))
    – secan
    Aug 30 at 7:34
  • Potrebbe anche aggiungersi a "Santa Maria" qualcosa che faccia riferimento alla localizzazione della chiesa? A Barcellona abbiamo, per esempio, "Santa Maria del Mar" e "Santa Maria del Pi" (perché è situata nella piazza del Pi, una piazza dove c'è un pino). Aggiungo che questo finisce con essere un prenome: ci sonno donne chiamate "Maria del Mar" o "Maria del Pi".
    – Charo
    Aug 30 at 7:54
  • 1
    Thanks, @secan! I've added a couple of words to that sentence, to make it compatible with “Maddalena”.
    – DaG
    Aug 30 at 8:08
  • Giustissimo, @Charo, è quello che avevo in mente quando scrivevo “(or other phrases)” ma senza dilungarmi. Anche in Italia ci sono molte chiese con nomi come “S.M. sopra Minerva”, “S.M. in Aquiro”, “S.M. degli Angeli e dei Martiri”, “S.M. del Popolo” (e queste sono solo chiese romane). In questo momento non mi vengono in mente nomi femminili collegati, ma non lo escludo.
    – DaG
    Aug 30 at 8:12
  • @Charo penso che gli esempi che hai citato ricadano nel secondo caso ("aggettivi o altre frasi relative a quella chiesa")
    – secan
    Aug 30 at 8:12
0

I admit that I have never read Il Fu Mattia Pascal, but I can try to answer you even not knowing the context within the narration of the book. The name "Santa Maria Liberale" could be a reference to the true Venetian church "Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Liberale" whose church is dedicated to both Santa Maria Assunta and San Liberale.

San Liberale is the patron saint of the city of Treviso and Castelfranco Veneto (the place where the cathedral is located).

Brief mention of San Liberale: he was from a rich pagan family, he wanted to enlist as a soldier from an early age, converted to Christianity with the aim of helping the poor and praying.

However, I don't think the use of the word "Liberal" has a political background in this case. Also because there is little relevant information on liberal Christianity (wiki)

EDIT:

The names they take are clearly not references to the word itself. Most of them have their real names: "San Martino", "San Andrea", "Santa Lucia". Others instead have the addition from the place they come from: "Sant'Antonio da Padova" (from Padua), "Santa Teresa d’Avila" (from Avila), "San Francesco d’Assisi" (from Assisi). Others instead have canonical additions based on what they did during their life, for example: "San Gabriele dell'Addolorata", who does not come from Addolorata, but is given by the fact that he has indulged the devotion to the Madonna Addolorata rooted in him since childhood, inspired by a statuette of the Pietà that his mother kept at home.

2
  • Beh... il problema è che "la chiesetta fuori mano di Santa Maria Liberale" che funge da biblioteca nel Fu Mattia Pascal è a Miragno, in Liguria.
    – Charo
    Aug 29 at 12:59
  • This has nothing at all to do with the question.
    – DaG
    Aug 29 at 21:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.