Without a doubt one of the most heartfelt holidays from the city of Messina is the Ferragosto, which in the city of the Strait is celebrated with the procession of the Vara and the "Walk of the Giants" Mata and Griffin.
Today, waiting for the next mid-August, we will talk about Mata and Grifone, an authentic love story between legend and popular traditions.
Among the various versions of the legend of the giants Mata and Grifone, the best known is the one that considers them as founders of city of Messina and ancestors of its population.
Mata, dialect version of the name Marta, was a busty girl from Messina. Griffin, whose original name was Hassan Ibn-Hammar, was a Saracen giant of Muslim faith at the head of an army dedicated to piracy and violent raids. Around 964 AD, the army led by Grifone conquered the city of the Strait through the Tyrrhenian town now known as Rometta. During one of his raids, he saw Mata and fell madly in love with her so much that he went to ask her to marry her father, Cosimo II di Castellaccio, but both the father and Mata herself refused the proposal of the Saracen giant.
Despite being subjected to various tortures, Mata persisted in rejecting Gryphon's proposal and so she realized that the only way to win her heart was to repent and change her life. He then abandoned the role of criminal and after converting to Christianity and being baptized with the name of Grifo (later Griffin due to his size), he dedicated himself to the cultivation of the land and to charitable works.
Mata, struck by this striking gesture of love, began to look at him with different eyes until she fell in love with it. Their union was blessed by numerous children, so much so that the popular Messina tradition identifies the Giant and the Giantess as the progenitors and founders of the city of the Strait.
Around 1550, the Messina Senate commissioned the Florentine Martino Montanini, a pupil of Montorsoli, to build two statues dedicated to Mata and Grifone, which were then rebuilt and restored several times over the centuries.
A few days before August 15th, every year, the two giants on horseback about eight meters high, followed by a procession in costume and the blare of trumpets and the sound of drums, are carried in procession through the streets of the city until they reach the square. adjacent to the Town Hall, where they stop for the rest of the summer.