The most serviceable saint whom I know is St. Antonino. He is the patron saint of the good town of Sorrento; he is the good genius of all sailors and fishermen; and he has a humbler office,—that of protector of the pigs. On his day the pigs are brought into the public square to be blessed; and this is one reason why the pork of Sorrento is reputed so sweet and wholesome. The saint is the friend, and, so to say, companion of the common people. They seem to be all fond of him, and there is little of fear in their confiding relation. His humble origin and plebeian appearance have something to do with his popularity, no doubt. There is nothing awe-inspiring in the brown stone figure, battered and cracked, that stands at one corner of the bridge, over the chasm at the entrance of the city. He holds a crosier in one hand, and raises the other, with fingers uplifted, in act of benediction. If his face is an indication of his character, he had in him a mixture of robust good-nature with a touch of vulgarity, and could rough it in a jolly manner with fishermen and peasants. He may have appeared to better advantage when he stood on top of the massive old city gate, which the present government, with the impulse of a vandal, took down a few years ago. The demolition had to be accomplished in the night, under a guard of soldiers, so indignant were the populace. At that time the homely saint was deposed; and he wears now, I think, a snubbed and cast-aside aspect. Perhaps he is dearer to the people than ever; and I confess that I like him much better than many grander saints, in stone, I have seen in more conspicuous places. If ever I am in rough water and foul weather, I hope he will not take amiss anything I have here written about him.
Sunday, and it happened to be St. Valentine’s also, was the great fete-day of St. Antonino. Early in the morning there was a great clanging of bells; and the ceremony of the blessing of the pigs took place,—I heard, but I was not abroad early enough to see it,—a laziness for which I fancy I need not apologize, as the Catholic is known to be an earlier religion than the Protestant. When I did go out, the streets were thronged with people, the countryfolk having come in for miles around. The church of the patron saint was the great center of attraction. The blank walls of the little square in front, and of the narrow streets near, were hung with cheap and highly-colored lithographs of sacred subjects, for sale; tables and booths were set up in every available space for the traffic in pre-Raphaelite gingerbread, molasses candy, strings of dried nuts, pinecone and pumpkin seeds, scarfs, boots and shoes, and all sorts of trumpery. One dealer had preempted a large space on the pavement, where he had spread out an assortment of bits of old iron, nails, pieces of steel traps, and various fragments which might be useful to the peasants. The press was so great, that it was difficult to get through it; but the crowd was a picturesque one, and in the highest good humor. The occasion was a sort of Fourth of July, but without its worry and powder and flowing bars.