The Mysteries of the Cathedral of St Gerland.
The Church of St Gerland is the most enchanting place in Agrigento.
It has stood tall over the old town center for nine centuries,
carefully guarding an array of mysterious objects and legends.
The Altar and the legend of the True Cross.
At the time of the first Crusade,
the Norman Count Ruggero conquered Sicily.
It would take exceptional human and spiritual capabilities to
convert the population back to Christianity after centuries of Saracen rule.
the Count appointed Gerland of Besancon as the Bishop of Agrigento.
He performed his imminent duties so well that he had soon re-established
the Church throughout the island,
leading to his canonization many years later.
As the crusaders were conquering Jerusalem,
Gerlando completed the Cathedral.
The crusaders had a small,
portable altar that they used for celebrating mass on the battlefield and
it was jealously guarded in the Cathedral for centuries.
Why was it hidden in a shrine dedicated to the Church of St Gerland?
Was it his or was it brought back as a gift for him from the Holy Land?
On one side it shows David and Solomon worshipping a Byzantine cross in a
image associated with “the Legend of the true Cross”,
which was only known in the East at the time and was first spread elsewhere by Gerland.
The altar is now on displey in the MUDIA;
diocesan museum of Agrigento.
The Saint and the Paladin
In St Gerland’s church,
there is an embalmed body in a glass coffin.
It has been officially identified as St. Felice Martire,
there are 15 martyrs recognized by the Church wit this name and
for some reason its not known which he is.
His unusual clothes have given rise to an alternative theory.
According to an ancient tradition,
it is actually the body of Charlemagne’s brave paladin Brandimarte.
He died alongside Orlando and Oliviero during an epic battle
with three Saracens knights on Lampedusa.
Orlando wanted his body to be taken to Agrigento for a funeral and buried in the Cathedral.
The story was told by Ludovico Ariosto in the Orlando Furioso.
So whose body lies in the glass coffin?
The Paladin or the Saint?
It remains a mystery.