The plot of the Novel





The Sorrentine Peninsula, 12 June 1560. Sunset. It’s the choral and anxious waiting for the people of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento, which only in part soothes the deep hatred towards the Turks, who spread death, suffering, pain and misery two years before . Damned Turks, sons of the devil, vomiting of Hell. Damned per per saecula saeculorum! It’s the evening. A beautiful girl, Anna, croses the bridge over the valley and goes home through the gate of the Castle. She went outside the walls of the city to pick up flowers to decorate her long black hair the next day. As announced by the delegates of the Spanish viceroy of Naples to the communities of the Sorrentine Peninsula, after two terrible years of imprisonment spent in Istanbul following the Turkish assault of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento on 13th June 1558, the surviving prisoners are going to be brought home. Their release has been paid for by their families, in gold, silver and jewels, as a ransom to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent through a pitiful public collection made in all the viceroyalty.  Anna is waiting for the return of her mother. A young farmer from Crocevia, Enrico, is coming home for a well deserved rest, after a day spent hoeing in the Correales’ property.  An olive-skinned child, the result of a rape of his innocent young wife, sleeps in a wooden cradle, causing him tenderness, but also a deep unease. From the balcony of Palazzo Guardati, which overlooks the square in front of the Aragonese walls, donna Virginia Guardati, unmarried but particularly attractive woman coveted by Sorrento’s males, observes the comings and goings below. Even the noblewoman two years earlier was a victim of the Turkish assault in her bedroom, but she’s been able to save her life thanks to her erotic skills, causing much obscene gossip at tavern tables. On Crapolla’s beach two fishermen are getting ready to go for a night fishing trip, while a little boy, Michelino, is going up to Sant’Agata to bring a bag of anchovies to donna Titina, a rich widow, owner of a well-cultivated farm, which produces among other things juicy lemons, used by sailors embarked on commercial ships. She is also waiting for her only beloved son Angelo to return from Istanbul. At Palazzo Correale, don Filippo, the most influential politically and economically nobleman of Sorrento, is preparing to welcome his eldest son, Marino, for whom he paid a huge ransom.


The Sorrentine Peninsula. The Promontory of Minerva, 13th June 1560. Morning. A small fleet of three Ottoman galleys under the command of Admiral Abdel Ahad, rounds the Sorrentine Peninsula's extreme point and approaches in full sail the Sorrento’s high coast to return the ransomed to the local authorities. In Palazzo Correale’s courtyard count Filippo at the head of a magnificent procession composed of the Spanish captain, his wife Camilla, servants and armed guards, gets ready to travel on horseback to the Capo Cervo’s pier, which remains in his ownership by an ancient royal grant. He is going to welcome his heir, whom he aspires to soon send off to the court of Philip the Second, the King of Spain, in order to increase his family’s prestige. On the other pier, called marina del Porto, marina grande or fishermen’s marina, an anxious and distraught crowd is going to welcome their loved ones, who escaped the sad fate. Some of them will embrace their relatives, others will sink into deep despair, because many of the prisoners are not coming back. In fact, among more than 2000 hostages from Sorrento and Massa Lubrense only a few hundred have survived the long imprisonment. Others will not return because they were made slaves or, in case of virgin girls, destined to join the sultan’s harem. Count Correale, furious because the Turkish galleys have anchored in front of the fishermen’s marine, is forced to head over there, where he discovers disturbing news in a letter from his son delivered to him by the Ottoman admiral:  his son Marino has chosen not to come back to Sorrento, but to stay in Istanbul instead, at the sultan’s court. His wife, donna Camilla, faints hearing the unexpected news, while the Turkish fleet is already sailing back to Istanbul.


Sorrento. The Cathedral, 23 July 1560. Noon. The Dominican friar, archbishop Giulio Pavesi, sent immediately to Sorrento by Pope Paul IV a few weeks after the Turkish massacre on 20 July 1558, a man of deep knowledge and weariless moral guidance of the religious rebirth of Sorrento, along with the bishops of Massa Lubrense and Vico Equense, officiates in a still wounded cathedral a solemn celebration of thanksgiving to the Lord for the return of the rescued and for salvation of the dead in captivity. The bishop wears a sparkling chasuble, an object of popular devotion, depicting golden pomegranates embroidered by sister Silvina, an elderly nun, embroiderer from the women’s monastery of San Paolo. Just like Saint Agatha, she chose to be martyred by the Turks during the desecration of the convent to defend the precious vestment from the marauding Ottomans in search of booty. It was bathed with the blood of her martyrdom. Sitting in the front pews, don Filippo Correale does not follow the ceremony. He continues to question himself about the obscure reasons which prompted his firstborn to stay in Istanbul, to betray the family and affect the planned and now compromised projects of the political rise of the line. He reflects on the scandal caused by his son’s betrayal, news of which will soon be carried by their enemies to the ear of the viceroy of Naples, and then to the king of Spain as well. His wife Camilla, however, lets herself go to the fond memories of her beloved son’s childhood and youth, hoping in her heart to see him again one day despite a terrible prophecy oppressing her soul. After the Te Deum followed by all the people of Sorrento, furious Count Correale leaves the cathedral through the side door without paying homage to the celebrants in the sacristy. While he returns to his palace he curses the son’s fencing master, Kostas, suspecting him to be responsible for what happened to his son.


Sorrento. Palazzo Correale, May 1553. Morning. Donna Camilla Correale sits with Ercole, her youngest child, in her arms in the atrium of the palace, when don Filippo, on his return on horseback from Naples, presents her Marino’s fencing master.  The man of Greek origin is named Kostas. He is silent and mysterious, and always bears a falcon on his shoulder. He was sent to don Filippo by his friend from Venice at his request. Marino now learns the military arts, and not just the humanities taught by an elderly priest, a friend of his family, father Marrico. He has to prepare to become a cavalier to be admitted to the court of the king of Spain. With the help of this skillful master Marino in four years reaches excellence in all physical practices, from riding to sword fight, surprising his father and making him proud. Count Correale’s eldest son, however, as it is revealed one night at dinner, is manifesting rebel disturbances and always less orthodox reasonings, even in religious matters. The father explains those “shackles” of his now seventeen years old and physically handsome son as the symptoms of incipient and not yet satisfied manhood. He decides, therefore, to remedy the situation with a plan, the execution of which is entrusted in secret to the faithful butler Fernando, a Castilian native. Using a trick he leads the young man to a Neapolitan courtesan so he can be initiated to the matters of eros.  


Sorrento, Venice and Rome, 1538 – 1539. One year before his marriage with Camilla, which is to be celebrated in 1539, the young Filippo Correale is sent by his parents for a cultural trip to Venice and Rome. In fact, this is a cover to keep him away from Sorrento before marriage to avoid the recurrence of scandals already caused by him in the city. He has been seducing the commoners and making them pregnant causing damage to family’s assets because of compensation’s demands.  In Venice, which in those years has reached its maximum artistic and economic splendor through the works of Titian, the Bellini brothers, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Paolo Veronese, Pordenone and Tintoretto, the handsome Filippo stays in Palazzo Gritti, at his friends, Marcantonio Gritti, the son of Doge Andrea Gritti. Because of the advanced age and the pressing duties of his office the doge lives permanently in the Ducal Palace, leaving an open field to the uncontrolled behaviour of his second natural son, born to a mother of a Sorrentine origin. Along with the young Venetian nobleman, from summer to late autumn of 1538, Filippo spends the evenings attending many courtesans present in Venice in large numbers, and partying till late at night along with other young Venetian nobles, as unrestrained as Gritti. Filippo documents his stay in Venice with letters sent to his parents, which describe only his visits at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, at the Scrovegni Chapel and at the Venetian churches. The stay in Venice ends with a farewell masquerade ball, "The Triumph of Lust", organized by Gritti in honour of his friend’s leaving for Rome with the help of a famous Venetian courtesan, Decamerona. Among the rivers of sparkling wines of Treviso the dance turns into a promiscuous orgy. Having left the Venetian Republic, the young Correale moves to Rome where he continues to attend other courtesans’ chambers, where he meets Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Along with the Cardinal he visits the Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgement almost completed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, and the Fabric of Saint Peter.  This is the only activity of which in detailed letters Filippo informs his father and his mother, who send him money from Sorrento. He returns to Sorrento only a month before the wedding celebrated in May 1539 in the church of St. Antoninus, with the same pomp and the same wedding banquet as the marriage between Princess Giovanna of Durres, the future Queen Giovanna II of Naples, and William of Austria, which took place in Sorrento in 1401. That royal wedding organized by the Correales would have been the basis of their fortunes, with the property concessions made to​​ them by the Angevin sovereign and confirmed later by the Aragon kings, Alfonso I and Ferrante I. Ten months later Camilla Correale gives birth to Marino, the Correales’ heir.


Naples and the Sorrentine Peninsula, spring 1558. Marino, who, thanks to the rigor and the discipline imposed on him daily by master Kostas, became a skilled horseman and an unbeatable swordsman famous throughout the viceroyalty as well as in Sorrento, wins a jousting in Naples at the presence of a Spanish viceroy, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel. In the spring of 1558, at the age of eighteen, also for his manly beauty and uncommon athleticism, he becomes the hero of the young patricians and the ideal of masculinity for the girls form Sorrento and Naples, as well as the commoners and all female servants of Palazzo Correale. In addition, unlike his arrogant and imperious father, Marino obtains a universal acceptance, also for the grace and the gentle traits of his character, always respectful of others, no matter which social class they belong to. On long daytime or nighttime rides up to the temple of Minerva, to the ruins of the villa of Pollio Felice or to Casarlano, a dialogue on philosophy and religions sets between the fencing master and his pupil. This way Kostas, who reveals himself as a highly educated person, introduces Marino through the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle to the heritage of Arabic philosophy, starting from Averroes. The covered topics open Marino’s mind to new cultural or even religious horizons, more broad and varied then the dogmatic settings of father Marrico. This causes the indignation of the elderly catholic tutor, who begins to fear a drift at the edge of heresy in the continuous questions and objections of the young man, who isn't just the meek listener from the past anymore. The tutor refers to Marino’s increasingly concerned mother the worry concerning the freedom of her son’s thought, which in times of religious wars, of Inquisition and of burning stakes could become dangerous for the future of the heir. Count Filippo, because of the innate impatience with the tutor, underestimates the warnings and continues to judge his son’s behaviour as an outgrowth of the exuberance of the youth. On Kostas’ suggestion, Marino assumes more caution to avoid his father’s reprisal against the fencing master. Two moonlit nights at the Promontory of Minerva in Massa Lubrense and at the ruins near the seaside villa of Pollio Felice at the Cape of Santa Fortunata in Sorrento reveal the new mindset of the young Correale. In May 1558 the chivalry training is over and Marino, now eighteen, is knighted by the viceroy of Naples in a solemn ceremony, to be destined, according to his father’s intentions, to go to Madrid to the court of Philip II. In early June alarming news comes to Sorrento. An imposing Turkish fleet of 130 galleys under the command of kapudan pshşa, Piyale Pasha, a Hungarian admiral brought up personally by Suleiman and loyal to the sultan, arrives imminently from Calabria along the Salerno and Naples coasts. The new viceroy of Naples, Juan Manrique de Lara sends to Sorrento a contingent of 200 Spanish soldiers to strengthen local defences and to protect the city. Count Filippo Correale is sure that Sorrento is impregnable and he is also contrary to the expenses for the troop accommodation and meals, as well as to hosting the Spanish soldiers within the walls of Sorrento. Supported by the other nobles of the Sedile di Porta and the Sedile di Dominova, he convinces the city parliament to send a delegation to the viceroy with the request, accompanied by gifts, to withdraw the armed men. Despite the protests of the archbishop’s delegate in the absence of the archbishop who died two weeks earlier, and of the representatives of the villages of Piano, more exposed to an assault being outside of the walls, the Correale’s theory prevails. The garrison returns to Naples on Sunday, 12 June 1558, which is celebrated on the same evening with banquets, toasts and abundant libations held in the noble palaces, starting from Palazzo Correale.


Marina del Cantone, the centre of Massa and Sant’Agata, 13 June 1558. Dawn. The Turkish fleet, not spotted by anyone from the watch towers or from the hills, lands near marina del Cantone in Massa Lubrense with two thousand armed men commanded by the fierce kapudan Dragut  He is known for having already plundered in the previous years Positano, Castellammare di Stabia and Capri, and for setting fire to the Castle and to Certosa. The inhabitants of the small fishermen’s village surprised in their sleep are brutally slaughtered, if they dare to resist, or taken prisoner and dragged to the galleys. The horde of Turkish Janissaries and sipahis, armed to their teeth and preceeded by fierce Christian renegades, ascends to the village of Anarano, pillaging, raping, killing, robbing and carrying away as hostage any healthy male and virgin female. The rest of the people is beheaded with scimitars. Near Tore di Termini Commander Dragut, well familiar with the maps, divides the army into two blocks: one thousand men make their way to Sant'Agata and one thousand descend towards the centre of Massa. In Sant'Agata Dragut attacks, robs and sets on fire donna Titina’s farm, then the entire village and the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and continues descending down to Sorrento with bound captives and without coming across the slightest sign of resistance. The other group of Turkish soldiers, however, reach the Massa Lubrense’s centre spreading death and destruction through the villages. The few survivors in Massa find refuge in the towers. Everywhere one can hear wails of despair, anguished screams, dispirited crying and unhappy moans, mixed with columns of smoke coming from numerous fires.

VIII THE SACK OF SORRENTO (view interactive map »)

Sorrento, 13 June 1558. Morning. Twenty galleys under the command of Admiral Piyale Pasha have arrived in front of the marina coming from marina del Cantone, where most of the fleet remained at anchor waiting for the completion of the assault operations in Massa Lubrense. In the women’s monastery of St. Paul in Sorrento the abbess Vittoria Donnorso presides over the worship of the Eucharist in the church of the convent when an elderly nun, sister Silvina, bursts into the church claiming to have seen St. Antoninus, the patron saint of the city, flying in the sky and thundering against the quarrels of Sorrento’s rulers. Kostas, informed by his faithful falcon, which has flown back and forth above the Turkish fleet, leaves Palazzo Correale without seeing anyone on the streets. He reaches the Greek gate of Marina Grande, along with his horse Khalil and Marino’s horse, Vento del Sud, on which he placed a heavy bag with Marino sleeping inside. With the keys stolen from the count, he opens the gate to the Turks ready to attack and to start setting fires. Kostas meets his old comrade Hashim, appointed by the Admiral Piyale Pasha to lead the the sack of the city. He is followed by dozens of Janissaries and Christian renegades. Without resistance the Turks penetrate into the heart of Sorrento. The frightful plunder begins. The first buildings to be attacked are the women’s monasteries. Sister Silvina, who witnessed the capture of the abbess and the other sisters, takes refuge in her cell and at the cost of her life protects the chasuble with golden pomegranates from raiding.  The Christian renegades divided into ranks are sent to guard the other three entrances to the city. They indulge in the most sordid violence and brutality in the streets, in noble palaces and in churches, starting with the church of St. Antoninus, burning, destroying and taking many prisoners. The desperate people of Sorrento flee everywhere, persistently looking for salvation. A few nobles led by the Spanish governor, Cristofaro de Villareale, attempt a desperate defense lined up in front of the Castle, but they are instantly killed. Dragut comes down from Sant'Agata, devastates Casarlano and enters Sorrento through the gate of the hill taking control of operations. Before long the Cathedral and the archbishop’s palace are burned, hundreds of elderly killed and about a thousand other people captured. A few hundred people are saved in a tower outside the walls on the way to Piano. At sunset, after a day of violence, desecration, looting, rapes and murders, a long line of hostages is escorted to the galleys from the fishermen’s pier. Only Palazzo Correale is mysteriously saved from the onslaught of the Turks. On the evening of that fateful day, while the Turkish galleys loaded with booty and hostages sail towards Procida, don Filippo wakes up still groggy from too much wine drank the night before. He is informed by the butler Fernando and the Spanish captain Manuel Montygo of what happened in Massa Lubrense and in the city, and of the disappearance of Kostas and Marino. The three men go out to look for them, thinking that they will find their bodies among the dead scattered everywhere inside and outside the walls of the city. Hair-raising scenes present in front of their eyes in the shadows of the night. Sorrento, wrapped in the smoke of not yet extinguished fires, is devastated, humiliated, defiled and bleeding.


Procida, Minorca, Stromboli and Istanbul. Summer 1558. After the devastation of Massa Lubrense and Sorrento the fleet of Piyale Pasha is making its way in the night to the island of Procida, to wait at anchor for a few days for the arrival of the town and viceroyal delegations with ransom for the immediate release of the hostages. In the meantime, they attack Procida, capturing a limited booty and only few hostages. The people of Procida shelter successfully in high and inaccessible areas. Waking up in one of the cabins of the flagship Marino asks Kostas for explanations. The assurances on the safety of his family make him refuse the opportunity to return to Sorrento and take the adventure to the new religious dimension, discovered by reading of Koran under Kostas’ guide, who in secret over the years has also taught him Arabic. Marino decides to follow his fencing master to Istanbul to continue the process of conversion to Islam and to enter the academy of the Janissary corps, the sultan’s powerful personal militia, of which Kostas will be appointed commander by Suleiman the Magnificent as a reward for the operation of Sorrento. Having waited in vain for ransoms the fleet leaves Procida, goes back to the Tyrrhenian Sea and arrives at Piombino, where kapudan paşa, Piyale Paşa, receives on his flagship the ambassador from Genoa, Francesco Cibo Costa, sent to him by the Government of the Republic of Genoa to define a maritime truce between the Ottoman Empire and the Lordship of Doria. From there, unable to plunder the coasts of Liguria, Piyale Paşa goes to the Balearic Islands and invades the island of Menorca sacking and taking away thousands of young hostages. The atrocities are even more cruel than those committed at Massa Lubrense and Sorrento. Sailing along Tyrrhenian coasts the Turkish galleys are finally en route to Istanbul, stopping on a full moon night near the island of Stromboli, one of the Aeolian Islands, in front of the Sciara del Fuoco. It renews, as during so many nights in Sorrento, the intense bond between Marino and the moon, the symbol of womanhood. Having ended his meditation in front of that sublime spectacle of fire and light, Marino, communicates to the Turkish Admiral his decision to convert to Islam. The kapudan paşa gives him a new Muslim name: Amir al-Qamar, Prince of the Moon. The victorious fleet loaded with booty and hostages finally arrives to the Golden Horn in front of the wonderful profile of the hill of Istanbul, lit by a golden sunset. Piyale Paşa is carried in triumph.  Kostas, whose real Arabic name since his conversion to Islam is Husam ed-Din, is appointed commander of Janissary corps by Suleiman the Magnificent, in recognition of the long-espionage work in Venice and Sorrento. Marino joins the sultan’s militia. Two years later the ransom to release the hostages arrives in Istanbul along with a Spanish and Sorrentine delegation. Marino’s father has also paid for his release but the young man, after a troubled night, finally decides to stay in Istanbul and sends a farewell letter to his parents.


Istanbul, 1560 and later. Because of his abilities after the completion of his military training at the academy of the Janissaries, Marino, is transferred at the Registry of the imperial government at Topkapi, firstly as a translator of diplomatic cables and then of sultan’s personal correspondence. The third Vizier, Sokollu Mehmet Pasha, born in a Serbian-Ortodox village and converted to Islam, appreciates Marino very much and takes him under his protection during his own political rise, launching him to a brilliant diplomatic career, which proceeds along the one of the influential patron. Istanbul, magical, seductive and shimmering of gold, is the backdrop of Marino’s new life: the mosques, the Süleymaniye Mosque and the constructed tomb of Hürrem Sultan of the deceased sultan’s wife, Karima, are constantly frequented by the young man. Husam ed-Din and Amir al-Qamar meet often, away from prying ears, in the Süleymaniye Hamam, the Turkish bath in the mosque of Suleiman, conversing and exchanging information valuable for both of them. Marino becomes aware about details of the life of Hürrem Sultan, the passed away wife of Suleiman, on the tragic history of the sultan’s favorite, Pargali İbrahim Paşa, who was appointed Grand Vizier and then killed by the sultan, as well as on the internecine war between Suleiman's sons, Bayezit and Selim, for the future succession to the throne. At the celebration of the wedding of Vizier Sokollu with I.smihan, the daughter of the heir to the throne and sultan's nephew, Marino has the opportunity to meet the mimarbas,i, the imperial architect Mi’ma-r Sina-n, the creator of all wonderful and amazing religious and civil buildings in Istanbul.  Marino shares a highly cultured exchange of views on art and religion of Islam with this influential man, a close associate of Suleiman and architectural genius, under the astonished stares of his assistants. Turkish unchallenged expansionism in the eastern and western White Sea continues, until the failed siege of Malta. In May 1565 the Turkish fleet under the command of kapudan pasha, Piyale Pasha, begins a long siege of Malta, a Christian outpost in the Mediterranean Sea ruled by the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, but short after three months they head back defeated to Istanbul. The political management of this delicate phase of the Ottoman Empire is entrusted to the protector of Marino. Sokollu appointed in June of that same year as Grand Vizier, the prime minister of Suleiman granted with extensive power, sends his trustworthy collaborator Marino on a secret mission to Venice, the centre of intelligence and espionage between Ottoman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Spain, France, Catholic monarchies, Protestant dynasties, Roman papacy and small Italian lordships. Marino has to gather information the reactions in Europe and, in particular, on the reaction in Venice to the Turkish failure of Malta. In Venice, in an indecipherable tangle of spies, the young man discovers with surprise that the head of Turkish espionage in Venice, on Sokollu's payroll, is Marcantonio Gritti, a friend of his father hosted years before by his family in Sorrento. It was him who recommended the fencing master to Marino’s father. Gritti recognizes Marino and invites him to cooperate. After collecting information which the Grand Vizier and the Sultan needed for their decisions, Marino is ready to return to Istanbul but gets wounded in a mysterious attack at night, carried out probably by Spanish spies. Back in the Ottoman capital, Mihrimah Sultan, Suleiman’s daughter and admirer of Amir, carries Marino almost dying due to the infection followed by stab wounds to her palace and has him looked after by her adopted daughter, Princess Yasmin. During his convalescence the young man and the princess, both beautiful, fall madly in love.


Istanbul, Hungary and the Mediterranean, 1566 – 1571. After the failure of Malta, Suleiman on the basis of Marino’s valuable information, decides despite his age and physical ailments, to embark on another terrestrial military campaign in Hungary, entrusting its complex organization to Sokollu, who also involves Marino. The imperial army, led by Suleiman with Sokollu and Marino in tow, arrives in Belgrade in July 1566. The Sultan, tired and suffering from a gangrenous leg, for the first time grants an audience to Marino offering him a gift of a precious stone, a sign of predilection and ascent at the imperial court, a reward for his services rendered in Venice and a gift for the future marriage with his granddaughter. On 5th September 1566, returning to the camp from the siege of the fortified city of Szigetvar the Sultan is hit by a stroke and dies. Sokollu secretly embalms Sultan’s body to hide his death from the army, still engaged in siege operations. The Grand Vizier sends Marino to Kütahya to inform his heir, Selīm, about the death of his father and about the urgent need for him to go to Belgrade to take command of the army and proclaim himself sultan. Selīm is extremely different from his father. His weakness and his addiction to wine as well as his life spent almost entirely in harem and in menagerie between sexual pleasures and food, make him an easy prey for unscrupulous advisers with their desires of power, including the Portuguese jew Joseph Nasi. He is head of the antivenetian party averse to Sokollu, which includes also senior admirals of the imperial fleet, such as Piyale Pasha and Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha. After the inauguration of the new sultan that fraction pushes for a renewed expansionary policy leading to the detriment of the Serenissima, with the invasion and conquest of the island of Cyprus, a strategic possession of Venice. This way, with a predictable success, they seek to redress the failure of Malta and win for themselves prestige, wealth and power against the Grand Vizier. Sokollu, the advocate of a policy of good relations with Venice, is opposing in vain believing that another war against Venice would be damaging, as it would then be pushed to join a grand alliance of the Christian states against the Ottoman Empire. In July 1570 the Turks land in Cyprus. On 16th August the capital city, Nicosia, falls. About a year later the same fate is shared by Famagosta, with atrocities committed on its brave defenders and Commander Marcantonio Bragadin skinned alive. Meanwhile, many Christian states of Europe under the leadership of Pope Pius V create a Holy League to counter the Turkish dominance in the Mediterranean Sea and avenge Cyprus. Sokollu’s political and diplomatic intuition is confirmed. At the beginning of 1571 Marino marries Yasmin and is sent by Selim’s direct order to the flagship of the new kapudan pasha Müezzinzade Alì Pasha as an assistant, to continue the naval campaign against the Christian fleet of the Holy League. A few days before the battle between the two fleets, in early October 1571, the young man receives a letter from Istanbul written by Princess Mirimah, with the tragic and sad news about the death of Yasmin and their son occurred during birth. Marino is upset and decides to give in to death in the upcoming battle.


Waters of Lepanto, 7 October 1571. On the Sultana, the Turkish fleet’s flagship, kapudan pasha Müezzinzade holds a council of war: Marino informs the Turkish commanders on the inexperience of the Christian fleet admiral-in-chief, don John of Austria, stepbrother of king Philip II of Spain. The corsair Kara Hodja reports the results of a night raid in the Gulf of Patras, where the Christian fleet is stationed, and his impression of a numerical inferiority of the enemy fleet. The progress of the council of war, partly because of the opinions of kapudans Uluç Ali and Mehmet Shoraq, seems to favour the tactic of keeping the fleet in the harbor of Lepanto, attracting Christian ships, and then bombarding them with powerful Turkish artillery positioned on the coast. Kostas’ resolute intervention pushes Müezzinzade to order the exit of the fleet from the port to deal with the Christians in the open sea. Meanwhile, the fleet of the Holy League groups in Messina. Even don John of Austria has to deal with the hesitation of most of his commanders, such as Genoese Giannettino Doria, who insists on returning the following spring when the sea conditions will be less adverse, however with the exception of the Venetian Sebastiano Venier, concerned that the Venetian possessions may this way become abandoned to the mercy of Turks. The Knight of Malta Romegas, a heroic defender of the island during the Turkish siege of six years earlier convinces the commander in chief to take the plunge in order to avoid dishonor. The battle is inevitable. The fleets are facing each other. On the high flagpoles of the two flagships, the Real and the Sultana, one can see two flapping flags: the Christian one, blue, depicting the Crucified Christ and the Saints Peter and Paul and the Turkish one, white, with embroidered in gold thousands of times Allah’s 99 names and attributes. Venetian large galleys open their deadly fire in all directions against the Turkish galleys, which collide with each other and penetrate into each other, forcing the Turkish command to suffer the fury of the Christian onslaught. The Real of don John boards the Sultana of Müezzinzade. The Christian assault on the Turkish flagship ends quite immediately with the death of the kapudan pasha, a prelude to the Ottoman defeat. An arquebus bullet is heading to reach Marino in the chest when Kostas shields him with his body and collapses to the ground. The young Turkish dignitary is taken prisoner, carried onto the Real and chained. The furious battle ends after five hours. The Christian fleet has prevailed. Christianity has won over Islam. Thousands of killed or dying Turks float on the waters of the Sea of Lepanto among scrap sails, masts and pieces of burnt bodies left to the mercy of the waves.  A few days later on board of the Real don John interrogates the precious Turkish prisoner to decide upon his destiny. The proud answers of the young man irritate the Christian admiral, who decides to send him to Madrid and submit him as a Christian renegade to the court of the Holy Inquisition.


Madrid, 1571 – 1572. Don John of Austria and the other leaders of the Christian fleet returning from Lepanto are welcomed in their cities as heroes and defenders of Christianity. King Philip is not pleased with the personal success of his stepbrother, who aspires to the crown promised to him by the Pope. He fears that the Holy League may in the future be adapted to satisfy Venetian interests, and he prefers the pursuit of goals relevant to Spain, such as the reconquest of Tunis and the Algiers. In Istanbul the Grand Vizier Sokollu, after the projects of his internal enemies were defeated by battle of Lepanto, returns to the policy of peace with Venice to release it from the Holy League.  However, he is concerned for the fate of his collaborator, Amir al-Qamar. For this reason he requests information from the new kapudan pasha, Uluç Ali, from the Venetian bailiff in Istanbul, Marcantonio Barbaro and from the French ambassador in Istanbul, François de Noailles. Sokollu finds out that his protégé is still alive, kept prisoner in Madrid and he soon may be subjected to a terrible trial of the Spanish Holy Inquisition. He offers an unlimited ransom in gold - it is, however, rejected. Marino has become a political prisoner, useful for future peace negotiations and diplomatic exchanges. Confined to a cell in inhumane conditions Marino wants to be left to die. He receives a visit of a mysterious figure, who claims to be Michel de Codignac, a French diplomat, on duty for the king of Spain, once ambassador of the king of France to Suleiman the Magnificent. De Codignac sets out a plan funded by Sokollu for Marino to escape from jail, to rescue him from the process, but Marino refuses it. Something starts to change in the young man’s soul. His faith in Allah continues to remain strong, however, it does not stop him from reflecting on political power and exploitation of religion. He is encouraged by the re-reading of the Bible and of The Prince by Machiavelli, as well as by conversations with two new cellmates, the moor Abén and the jew Baruch. The day of the trial has come. The grand inquisitor Gaspar de Quiroga y Vela, after a series of pressing questions and very determined answers of Marino, sentences him to life in prison wanting him to manifest sincere desire for reconciliation with the Christian faith, the Holy Roman Church and the Pope. In fact, King Philip of Spain wants to keep him alive for political and diplomatic purposes, because of the great interest expressed for him by the grand vizier in Istanbul. Marino’s penalty would not be served in the prisons of the Inquisition but in a dungeon at the royal palace of Escorial.


Madrid. Sorrento. 1572 – 1600. Marino is locked in a dungeon at Escorial together with an artist, the sculptor Felipe de Jimenez, a pupil of Alonso González de Berruguete, also jailed for life as a renegade pending the possible reconciliation with the Catholic Church. The two are spiritually assisted by Miguel de Huesca, the Abbot of the Benedictine monastery of San Juan de la Peña. Marino’s Muslim faith falters, partly because of the deaths of Princess Mihrimah and Grand Vizier Sokollu, assassinated by a dervish. Any affective bond with Istanbul is now broken. His cellmate offers him to practice together the art of carving. To fill this existential desert after having repudiated two faiths, the Sorrentine slowly begins to tackle the art of carving. Abbot de Huesca dies and is replaced by the young Jesuit Martín de la Cruz sent in religious assistance to the two convicts. The man establishes a fruitful confidential relationship with Marino, who decides to tell him his entire troubled history. Thus begins the slow process of Marino's re-conversion to the Christian faith and his reconciliation with the Church of Rome. A few years later Martìn has to leave the two convicts, but the path to Marino’s re-conversion is complete just like his statue of Our Lady of Sorrows carved based on the advice of the Jesuit. The statue is presented to Philip II along with a request for freedom. The king is impressed and decides to place it in the Escorial’s royal chapel. Marino and Felipe declare the renewed profession of Christian faith, and Marino asks after his release to be placed for life at the Benedictine monastery of San Juan de la Peña. After a pilgrimage to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela imposed by the Benedictine abbot prior to final admission in the monastery, Marino is hit by a lung disease, which from now on will torment him forever. Marino takes holy orders according to the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia taking the name of brother Antoninus, the name of the saint patron of Sorrento, as he learned about his virtuous life reading an anonymous manuscript of the tenth century. As his illness progresses, especially in winter, Marino feels that death is approaching. He develops a desire to return to Sorrento, incognito, in order to pray at the tomb of the saint whose name he chose. In this exceptional case, on the basis of the reasons given and of the short time that the friar has left alive, the abbot allows him to go to the Benedictine oratory of St. Agrippinus in Sorrento, accompained by another friar. With the new religious identity and weakened health Marino returns to the city of his origin and is welcomed by the few remaining elderly oratory brothers. Sorrento is slowly re-emerging from the abyss of the tragedy of 1558 thanks to the tireless work of the Archbishop Giulio Pavesi and his successors at the helm of the archdiocese. Apart from the prayers at the tomb of the patron saint and the care of the monastery gardens Marino dedicates himself to creating a wooden sculpture, which he would like to leave as a gift to the people of Sorrento. He works in the carpentry of the convent, the work place of St. Antoninus. Indirectly informed by other friars Marino becomes aware about the death of his parents and the current condition of his brothers, but decides to continue the path of expiation and redemption without being revealed to anyone, also worried that the discovery of his identity could create scandal and confusion in Sorrento. After the procession of St. Antoninus on 14 February 1600 something unexpected happens: the old butler of his father, Fernando, struck by a sudden illness calls him at his bedside and, deeply moved, reveals to Marino to have known his true identity. The butler has recognized him from the first moment, informed of his story, his wanderings and his return to Sorrento by his Spanish relatives, servants of the king of Spain at the Escorial. The heart-warming and dramatic conversation between the old dying servant and the sick friar becomes the “moral and spiritual testament” of Marino, who reflects on the One God of all the nations; the instrumentalisation of religion by politics for the purposes of power, domination and individual wealth; the dialogue as the only way forward for the coexistence of the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At the beginning of a new century, again torn like the previous one by religious wars between Christians and by the great conflict between Christianity and Islam the simple words of brother Antoninus, aka Marino Correale, once Muslim named Amir al-Qamar, become a prophecy, a prophecy of salvation for the present and for the future of humanity. Four months later, on 13 June 1600, at the dawn of the forty-eighth anniversary of the Turkish assault of Sorrento, the abbot of the monastery of St. Agrippinus discovers brother Antoninus clothed with sacred vestments, lifeless, and lying on the wooden statue of the Dead Christ in the act of kissing the wound in the Savior's side.  This is the gift of brother Antoninus to the people of Sorrento, a symbol of death that heralds the life, synthesis of Sorrento’s religious and civil heritage to be delivered to new generations.

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