By Mary Beth Moser
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Extra info for Blood Relics: Menstrual Roots of Miraculous Black Madonnas in Italy
In the rushing river lay the remains of an arched bridge, surrounded by bubbling water. The men—still in single file—entered the water up to their knees and, after having crossed, went up the opposite bank. Anti-tank mines lay at the bottom of the river, near the ruins, producing bubbles. The men crossed without harm, as though they were rocks, but when behind us the first of the cars of the Fifteenth Battalion began to ford, it was thrown up in the air inside a mass of foaming water. A shoe with its foot inside became embedded between a fender and the hood of the following car.
The place got its name from a small church, empty of pews and every ornament, with remnants of a fire and refuse on the floor. In its center the enemy had shot a large painted plaster saint whose arms stretched in a gesture of love and—maybe on their way out—smashed his face with the butts of their guns. At first, he was almost laughable, then he seemed tragic, increasingly tragic, motionless in that solitary gesture of love, his face reduced to straw and plaster. Before sunset the Fifteenth Battalion (the other battalion of that paratroopers’ regiment) with a few armored vehicles converged at Madonna della Neve, as well as the Fourth Group of horse-drawn artillery, to which Second Lieutenant Bergna belonged.
What,” he answered, “you don’t know? ” I said in surprise. “Sure. ” “It seems like we’ve gone back to the days of barbaric invasions,” Canèr muttered from his corner. It was the first time that we came across this phenomenon of medieval proportions. “But who’s to say barbarians still respect bishops,” Canèr added, after a pause. “Did you see how it went in Cassino . . ” “It’s the third time that Monte Cassino was destroyed,” I said after a while. ” the old man asked, amazed. Our voices sounded sleepy.
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