OLIVE OIL HISTORY AND TRADITIONS
The olive is native to Central Asia regions North-East of the Caspian Sea, especially growing in hilly and mountain areas, where are well irrigated and fertile grounds.
According to biblical references and historical data, the olive tree appears to have remotest origins and was probably spread in the Mediterranean basin by Phoenecians. In Sicily olive growing and the oil trade flourished remarkably during the Spanish rule, that placed great importance on the cultivation of olive trees. Benedictin and Cistercian fathers introduced the earliest founded the earliest oil-mills.
A precious good since ancient times, the olive tree and fruit took on a symbolic and religious ritual both in Greek and Christian Ages. During a Theban feast dedicated to Greek God Apollo, an olive branch decorated with laurel leaves and ribbons was donated to the God at the end of a procession to the temple. Bible and Christian rites also contain references to it.
For Christianism oil, also, plays a fundamental role. It is used to give the Extreme Unction and to ordain priests.
The olive is also a symbol of peace and feast, notably relating to the Palm Sunday, one of crucial events of Christian’s Easter, when the Pope II holds a crucifix topped by an olive branch during the celebration of the Mass. And it is a symbol of prosperity, a trait that art has particularly emphasized, as it is stunningly shown in Piazza Armerina mosaics, in the Enna province.
The olive processing, also boasts an important and interesting tradition. Ancient technics and tools, today obviously enhanced by modern technology, were passed down through the generations as well as their old original terms, such as the “Giarra”, a vessel where oil is kept, the “Burnia”, a clay vase where olives are kept, and the “Tummino”, that is the unit of measure for olives. Labourers engaged in the olive-grove and in the working processes are referred to as the “Chiurma”. The “trappitu” is the oil-mill where oil is ultimately extracted.
A Museum of the Oil was founded founded, in Chiaramonte Gulfi, in the province of Ragusa, where is an important production. The museum, divided into seven rooms and a courtyard, displays tools of the tradition of the oil-making, such as an iron pressing machine dating back to the late 1800’s and a small crusher. Finally the “cafisi” are small tools to measure olive oil.