An Unexpected Request for Alms in a Southern Harbor: Hilaire Belloc Under Sail in Palma of Majorca

While recently on the ocean-seacoast island of my boyhood home, I decided to read again amidst the inspiring cool sea breezes my own fragile first edition of Hilaire Belloc’s 1908 collection of essays, entitled On Nothing and Kindred Subjects, which was dedicated to his friend Maurice Baring who was not yet, but almost, a Catholic.

In this Anthology, I have especially wanted to consider our Belloc’s essay “On a Southern Harbour” (225-231), for it subtly prepares and gradually conveys another special atmosphere; and it anticipates not only his 1925 experience at Mass in Narbonne, France, on the High Feast of the Holy Ghost in 19252 — but also something that unforgettably came into my own life quite unexpectedly, fifty years later (in 1975) at the Cathedral of Santa Rosalia, in Palermo, Sicily. (Santa Rosalia is the Patron Saint of Sicilian Mariners and of that harbor city of Palermo in northwestern Sicily. Palermo was made the new capital city of Sicily — because of its spacious and protected harbor for their many marauding corsairs — after the Mohammedans and their pirates had conquered Sicily in the 9th century (837-902) and strategically transferred the traditional capital to Palermo from Siracusa (Syracuse), which lay on the more confined and confining east coast of Sicily, and therefore inherently took away an active navy’s freedom of action and maneuver-room.)

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