The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

November 2014

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10
Monday,
10 November 2014

The Kingdom of Fanis

I was born in San Vigilio di Marebbe and from early childhood I was fascinated by listening to the old stories of FANIS. This ancient name seems to have always been part of me.
“The real fasciation of these tales is that they never fail to amaze irrespective of the passing of time. It is as if they create a bridge between our infant years and those of later life, a bridge which holds firm from generation to generation and  has all to do with our identity.”
Here in these mountains thousands of years ago there was a spendid kingdom made up of villages and meadows. The most important of these villages was named Fanis and its inhabitants were known as Fanes. It seems that the royal castle was situated in the south of the Conturines. Certainly it was a fine location for a royal abode. Reading the legends set in the Dolomites one discovers not only the names of the places but one actually gets to know and appreciate them. At the beginning the Fanes were considered a quite race, so much so that they were known as marmots. Whenever there was any danger or they felt threatened by enemy intrusions they would seek refuge in the mountain interior. The last of their kings however was a warrior and he had a daughter, Princess Dolasilla, who, thanks to a wonderous spell became an invincible archer. Dolasilla was faultless and the king continued to enjoy his wealth and riches. Under him the kingdom of Fanis enjoyed its maximum splendour. Such grandeur came to upset some of the surrounding populations and they reacted in a manner which led to the total destruction of Fanis. Notwithstanding this demise the tale and achievements of Dolasilla lived on through the centuries and became part of the legend as told in poetry, a poem so elaborate that it would take a whole day of summer to recite.
Witness to the fact that all these Dolomites tales originating in Val Badia have such a long history is to be found in the ancient sanctuary on Armentara, from whose name the Sasso della Croce is taken. Today there is a chairlift which takes one up to the church but time ago the pilgrims made their way up as a very real via Crucis. It is probable that the church was constructed above an area of pagan cult, this evidenced by the fact that one of the torrents which passes nearby is called Fles, an ancient word which can mean either a place of sacrifice or a sacred place. The legendary stories of the Fanes could have their roots in remote times as there is reference to ancient traditions which go back to the Illyrians and the Etruscans. These peoples loved to create poetry to do with hunting, whereby the animals spoke ande thought as men. This poetry survived to medieval times when even the minstrels passed away the long winter evenings reciting and singing and dancing to these old old stories. It seems that the Dolomites themselves are sculpted from these legends and that they are the ideal keepers of these incredible stories which are testimony to the existence of precious times gone before us. The Valle di Rudo, the particular peaks of Antruilles, the blood coloured rock-faces of the Croda Rossa are all magnificent reminders of the sounds and lyric of times past. And worthy of mention is also Lago di Braies, a jewel of the Fanis mountains and set below the imposing Croda del Becco: the Ladins call it the Sass dla porta. Legend has it that exactly here in the middle of the mountain there was a grand wooden door, now hidden from sight, which gave entrance to the interior of the mountain and to the lake itself, in a sort of undetground world. And what is more is that it is here that the last of the Fanes folk are asleep, they waiting for the moment to reappear and step out into the bright light of the day and re-establish the spendid kingdom of their ancestors.
The real fasciation of these tales is that they never fail to amaze irrespective of the passing of time. It is as if they create a bridge between our infant years and those of later life, a bridge which holds firm from generation to generation and  has all to do with our identity.

Artur Pescol