The Church of the Holy Grail
La Chiesa di San Giuseppe, Tusa, Sicily (Motherland Tour Stop 7)
The highlight of my journey to Sicily was visiting my great-grandmothers birthplace, Tusa, and having the opportunity to photograph the church she attended for the first 13 years of her life, La Chiesa di San Giuseppe, before emigrating with her family to the USA. This was also the church where her father was laid to rest.
Finding the church proved to be somewhat more of an adventure then I had anticipated. We located the old town quite easily, and my daughter and I wandered up to three nice, older gentlemen sitting on a bench. I explained what I was looking for to them in broken Italian, but unfortunately the men had no idea what I was looking for or where to find La Chiesa di San Giuseppe. At first I thought that either my Italian was so horrible that they didn’t understand me or that I had the wrong name for the church. Just as I was about to give up, a young boy of about 10 years old came up to us and said “ So dove La Chiesa di San Giuseppe è, io so dove si trova!”. With this, he scurried off up the hill like a bloodhound on a scent and disappeared into the narrow cobbled streets of the old town. I took off after him, almost losing sight of him at every turn as he sprinted into the inner maze of Tusa. I immediately lost my family, but I was on a mission.
The boy soon found the small church door, and beamed a smile at me as he pointed the way. We tried the door, but it was locked. He then told me to wait, and went scurrying up the hill a little further and pounded on a door of a nearby residence. A middle-aged woman came to the door, and the boy relayed our quest to the lady. She then smiled at me, stepped out into the alley, and started yelling in Italian up another alleyway. Soon an older woman came out onto a third floor balcony, and another unintelligible Italian conversation ensued. The older woman next came down into the alley, took a large, ancient looking key from her pocket, walked up to the church door, and unlocked it for me. She told me to go inside and take as long as I wanted to look around.
The photos above are HDR images of La Chiesa di San Giuseppe. The church was built around the year 1600. The single nave with simple barrel vaulting, plaster walls, and tiled floor are likely unchanged for the last 100 years. Statues of St Joseph on the alter and side alters were carved by the local Sicilian artist Simeone Li Volsi (born in Tusa,1588), whose tomb is also located in the church.