The man was immortalized on one of the light holders located in Piazza Università by the sculptors Mimì Maria Lazzaro and Domenico Tudisco
“The man, who once was considered wise, went mad because of love” (Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto). Almost everyone focused on words like that during school time feeling love or hate for the author. Moreover, any attentive connoisseur of Sicilian culture and traditions knows that these verses from Orlando Furioso have always been common among storytellers, and that some readjustments in the Puppet Theatre have brought them to light. However, few know the existence of the paladin Uzeta from Catania, even if he became a puppet too. His legend got lost in time, but the paladin rests at Piazza Università holding a shield in his hand and observing with his proud eyes the city moving beneath his feet.
A STOLEN KISS. An affair of kings, princesses and giants: that was the context of the legend of the young and poor Uzeta, son of the groom at the service of the king Cocalo – who controlled the city of Catania from the austere Ursino Castle in the company of his beautiful daughter Galatea. He once unexpectedly met the attractive princess near Lake Nicito: the girl had just fallen off her horse and fainted, when Uzeta picked her up and indulged in the desire to kiss her. When the princess suddenly woke up and saw the humble man, brutally rebuked him and went on her way. This episode made the protagonist really upset, as he realized that he would never have been accepted because of his condition, even though he would have liked to prove his virtue at any cost.
THE AWFUL GIANTS. For a long time, the castle had been besieged by the Ursini Saracen giants that, being the very first inhabitants of the royal seat, had given it their name. Uzeta took courage, his shining armor and decided to attack the awful giants. The battle went on relentlessly, but in the end the young boy man in his intention: the city and the castle were finally freed from the giants and he had proved his courage, emerging from his poor and humble condition and gaining a place in king Cocalo’s heart, who offered him his beautiful and young daughter’s hand. Their love story was therefore destined to remain immortal over the centuries.
BEYOND THE LEGEND. The adventure of the young son of the king Cocalo’s groom is totally invented. The story was conceived by Raffaele Trombetta, a well-known puppet-player from Catania who lived at the beginning of the 20th century, and then revisited and spread by the journalist Giuseppe Malfa. The Ursino Castle probably owes its name to the Latin locution castrum sinus, referring to its location on the gulf of Catania and not to the abovementioned giants. However, Uzeta has become the symbol of a city that feels the continuous need to redeem itself from the slander and scant regard of its neighbors. Immortalized in a famous sculpture made by Mimì Maria Lazzaro and Domenico Tudisco at the bottom of one of the four candle holders located in Piazza Università, the proud and severe paladin testifies to the endless stream of citizens and tourists that, ignoring its existence, have delivered its legendary story to oblivion.
Translated by Daniela Marsala