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The selection of the Church where you will eventually get married is a very personal choice. Usually the marriage is performed in the Bride's hometown but... which is mine? I was born in London England, raised in Pavia Italy and I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 20 years. To complicate matters, I became Catholic as an adult, so I never attended church in Italy (in Catholic-speak it means that I don't "belong to an Italian parish").
Although I've spent twice as much time in America as I have in Italy, I haven't any friendships here that are even half as deep. There's something special about child-hood friends that is difficult to re-create as an adult. My umbellic connection to Pavia doesn't even begin there, though. My father's and grandmother's bodies and memories are buried deep under Pavia's brick towers and cobblestone streets. And it was in the shadow of one of these towers, while tucking silk flowers in their gravestone vases, that I realized San Lanfranco would be my church of choice.
Last summer, we stopped by San Lanfranco so Roberto could see the church and we could meet the priest that would be performing the wedding ceremony. Padre Don Emiglio spared no subtlety as he spoke. A short, energetic Pavese he proudly explained the history and highlights of San Lanfranco and then launched into some decorating "suggestions" .
Although the church is well within Pavia's modern city boarders, in Medieval times the church became a refuge for an exiled Pavese, Lanfranco, began Padre Don Emilio. In the back of the church there is an elaborate sarcophagi rumored to still contain the body of this saint-- which makes him an unexpected, but welcome, guest at our wedding! The church is over 1,000 years old, this means that it has gone through at least one renovation continued Padre Don Emilio. As we stepped out to the rose garden, he gestured toward the plaque to commemorate the latest remodel to San Lanfranco, it read 1476. Under the garden portico we could see remnants of faded frescos and architectural odds and ends, that had forgotten their original place, artistically arranged.
Roberto and I followed him toward the altar and listened intently while the Padre noted that the church is so beautiful, there is no reason to crowd it it with too many flowers. A little bit at the altar, on the sides and... he stopped suddenly, turned around, and slid his glasses down to peer over the frames and punctuate "white flowers go particularly well with the brick interior." Roberto and I , startled, quickly abandoned the idea of a colorful spring bounty and agreed. The tour continued and finished in his office, which was neatly tucked behind the altar-- it's frigid temperature a testament to the thickness of the walls and a mockery to the summer heat waiting for us outside.
We stumbled out of San Lanfranco's rectory, eyes glazed, mumbling "top three, top five, top... top... " under our breaths. We were left with a true appreciation for father Don Emilio's ability to compress 4 weeks of pre-marital preparation into two hours.
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