Various | 10 August 2021

Marabutto of Bordighera

Marabutto of Bordighera

The Marabutto is one of the most characteristic places in Bordighera. Overlooking the sea, the small building is located 21 meters above sea level on the rocks of Capo Ampelio, at the foot of the pine forest, on a rocky esplanade with a suggestive large panoramic opening.

It is made of blocks of sandstone quarried on the spot then eroded and smoothed by sea winds. Its dome is instead made of solid bricks arranged in concentric rows.

At the time of their construction, the walls and dome were certainly covered with lime-based plaster, like those still existing in the Maghreb.

The name Marabutto derives from the Arabic word mûra-bet which, in the Islamic religion, indicates a holy man, a spiritual teacher, but also improperly used as a burial place for the master. These spiritual and meditation places for those who frequent them were generally made in scenic areas or on the top of hills.

There is very little information on the origins of the "Marabutto" of Capo Ampelio; The time of its construction is unknown, who built it as well as the purpose for which it was built.

If it were really a burial place, it would be the only survivor of ancient Islamic religious buildings on the entire territory of Liguria; perhaps erected, during the period of the Barbary attacks which took place after 1543, in memory of a pious man.

A connection with Islamic religious culture could be the orientation of the gateway to the North-West. At the time, the bodies were buried, after prayer, by placing them on the bottom of the tomb, on the right side and with the head in the direction of Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad was born.

The Marabutto also has three small openings respectively on three sides, two of which are a bit larger and elongated.

Considering the proximity, about 50 meters as the crow flies, to the Romanesque church - and former abbey - of Sant'Ampelio, it would seem curious that the local Christian community of the time could have allowed the creation of a symbol of the Islamic religion in that place.

Since there are no archival papers documenting its time of construction, the hypothesis of its realization after the 16th century Turkish-Barbary raids could also be plausible.

Some local people, kidnapped during the Barbary coastal raids, managed to escape from Muslim slavery and "maybe", some of these, after having seen the marabouts on the Maghreb coasts, have reported similar shapes and sizes albeit for a different destination.

To date, therefore, there are no elements to confirm or not its realization by local workers, but the dimensions and shapes of the artifact coincide with those erected on the Algerian territory.

Capo Ampelio is the southernmost tip of the whole of Liguria, this made the position of the esplanade strategic in the following centuries, especially as a lookout point on the sea and as a defense post for the city of Bordighera.

It is reported by some sources that this structure was once used as a former powder keg or as a deposit for stone or iron balls for the cannons positioned on the esplanade.

In 1971, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the foundation of Bordighera, three old cannons from the ancient coastal battery were rearranged in the immediate vicinity of the marabout pointing towards the sea.

The three guns of Bordighera have kept their popular names: "Tiralogni, Cacastrasse and Butafoegu".

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