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Santo Stephano Di Briga

At the end of the summer of 2004 , Trudy and I, on separate trips , visited our parents' home towns in Sicily. My father John and his brothers and sisters were  born in the small village called Santo Stephano di Briga (map) . It is nestled in the mountains (pic) outside of the  city of Messina. The eight children in a small house in a small village did not have much choice but to move on and seek their fortune elsewhere so the oldest sons emigrated to America , like many Sicilian families before them. Consequently most of the Busa family lives in this country and the only one to remain is the eldest son of the youngest child Guieseppe or "Peppino" Busa. He is a successful contactor living in Mili Marina (map) on the coast a few miles  from Santo Stephano.  However our cousins, Guieseppe and Gaetanno Mazzulo  and their families still live in the home town and he gladly took me  to meet them.

 My mother Rosina and her family lived in the town of Santo Margherita , a short distance from Santo Stephano. There her father Dionisio Romano and mother Maria owned  a small  house and farm .Her brother Giuseppe greatly expanded it  in the late  1930's and 40's and grew many kinds of vegetables as well as lemons and olives and sold his produce locally and in Messina. Rosina and her sisters Gaetanna, Vincenza and Anna went to school and learned needlework and embroidery. In the 1950's Vincenza and Giuseppe , Zia Enza and Zio Pippo in the photographs, brought their families to America and lived in Lexington. Anna and her father Dionisio came in the 1960's.The farm and house were sold   in the sixties and the farming community is hardly recognizable today.

 The following is a brief history of the town  written by Emily Magazzu, a cousin of Peppino's  wife Peppina.

  "  It is believed that the origin of S. Stefano Briga (map of town) was in 1061 under the Norman conquest of Messina.  Others say that by this date that inhabitants were already  here.  People who escaped from the tyranny of the Saracens and who wanted to live in peace and quiet settled in the areas surrounding the streams of S. Stefano and Galati.

  The first group people of about 30 to 40 people is noted in about 1100 when they established a group of houses.

  In 1144, the “Basiliani” monks founded the small monastery of Saint Stephen.  This religious order dedicated themselves not only to prayer but also to agricultural work.  They constructed a religious-agricultural community here.   

  Later Santo Stefano Briga was governed by the Duke De Spucches.  This title was bestowed by Philip V to Agata Amato Cirino in Madrid on July 13, 1705.  It was carried out on August 31, 1705.   After many centuries and by hereditary, the fief (feudal estate) passed into the hands of of Santo Princess Vittoria San Martino Stefano Briga.  She was born in Palermo on January 4, 1890.   She graduated from university with a degree in Law.    On January 3, 1914 in Palermo, she married Prince Gabriele Alliata Bazan of Villafranca.   He was the first child of Giuseppe and Marianna Bazan. 

They had five children:  Giuseppe, Francesco Raimondo, Eduardo and Gabriella.  They had inherited from their uncle Raimond, the Duke of Santo Stefano Briga, a large part of the land surrounding the village of S. Stefano.    They were very able administrators and with the help of their village farm collaborators and admirers.

Her official residence was the Mostri Palace in Palarmo.  Princess Vittoria came to the Duke’s Palace (which is near S. Gaetano’s Church) in S. Stefano at least once a year, usually in the autumn.   She came to settle the accounts of the sharecroppers and farm laborers who worked on her lands.  The villagers paid homage to her with gifts from the farms and land.  She reciprocated by giving them as gifts handkerchiefs, shirts, various kinds of fabrics.  The women of the village graciously accepted these gifts because at that time the villagers certainly didn’t live a life of luxury.  Rarely did she come in the summer.  The young princess became a widow while she was pregnant with her daughter.  Eduardo died very young of polio.  Her daughter Gabriella died at the age of 20 of tuberculosis.  She remarried a Professor of Architecture of Palermo. 

The princess was very attached to S. Stefano and her people.  She gave to the Church a sculpture in wood of a deceased Christ.  She died in Palermo on October 28, 1971.  Just about all her property including the Duke’s Palace here in S. Stefano was sold by her children. 

 Today the Duke’s Palace is owned by Mr. Peppino Mazzullo, who is the voice of the puppet “Topo Gigio”.  He has restored it.

  Santo Stefano di Briga was a commune  within itself until 1928.   This commune incorporated all the area from S. Stefano Briga, S. Stefano Medio, S. Margherita, Giamplieri, and Galati.  The public records were destroyed in a fire and later the village became a part of the commune  of Messina as it is today. Today S. Stefano Briga has about 2,000 inhabitants "