One of the most touching moments in the Matilda year was for me the celebration of Mass for Matilda and Gregory together in Sovana place of birth of Gregory / Ildebrando di Sovana. The organizers had combined both their years of passing – 900 years ago for Matilda and 870 years ago for Gregory. For the occasion three important towns in the story of Matilda were represented by their mayors – Sovana, Canossa and Bianello.
It was a day of pouring rain, so many umbrella’s near the Duomo. The special side door was opened for the occasion. For me a special experience, since it was here that I once discovered the Sovana mermaids, that in the end brought me on the track of Matilda – via the mermaid above her tomb in the Vatican. The interior of the church was soberly adorned with white and yellow flowers, and we were welcomed with a beautiful piece of classical music, for me a rare experience in a Catholic church.
Gregory is in Sovana honored as a saint, St. Gregory, a status that he was never officially awarded by the Church. So the Mass was dedicated to St.Gregory and Matilda – which reminded me of the stories that several Church people (among whom Urbanus VIII, the pope who brought her remains to the Vatican) have tried to declare Matilda a Saint too, with no success though.
The Mass was celebrated by a Cardinal of the Vatican, who is born in Sorano, with special music and much incense. But what made it so special was that he honoured the work that Matilda and Gregory had done together for the reform of the Church of their days, and that he set their connection and cooperation as an example for the reforms needed in the Church today.
It’s an argument that has often come to my mind when writing ‘Queen of the Vatican’ and participating in the Matilda year. But now it was articulated by a member of the staff of Pope Francis. After the Mass I offered my book to the Cardinal, and to the mayors of the organizing towns. I hope that it contributes to Matilda’s further revival this way…