The Ustica Connection

Newsletter of the San Bartolomeo Society Apostolo of New Orleans
Issue 6 - 15 April 2003


Banner Restoration Project
By Chris Caravella
Members of the San Bartolomeo Society witnessed the display of a true treasure at the August 2002 feast day celebration.  Just prior to the celebration, a processional banner was returned to the society by the Labit family.  They found the banner and other society artifacts as they cleared out the home of the recently deceased family matriarch, Alice Biscotto Labit.  Alice’s father, Angelo Biscotto, was treasurer in the 1930’s.  Her great-grandfather, Agostino Mazzola was a founding officer of the society at its inception in 1879.  The rumpled banner has probably been out of circulation for over 50 years.  Peter Bertucci, our current president, has held office since 1963 and neither he nor any other members even knew of its existence.
The banner is all done in a pale rose-colored silk, with the familiar green, white and red Italian colors in a flap at the top.  The exquisite hand-painted artwork in the center depicts the gruesome flaying of San Bartolomeo.  The fringe and tassels are all made of delicately coiled metal.  The gold embroidered text reads "SOCIETÁ ITALIANA DI MUTUA BENEFICENZA SAN BARTOLOMEO APOSTOLO NEW ORLEANS LA".  On the back, the text reads "ORGANIZZATA 1879".

A professional textile restorer, Jessica Hack, has prepared an evaluation of the banner’s condition.  The greatest problem is sagging and rumpling caused naturally by the weight of the banner as it aged and because it was rolled up in storage for so many years.  There is minor loss of paint in the canvas.  The silk fabric in the upper flap has some small tears and one of the metallic stars in the flap is unraveling and has lost some of its sequins.  The flap also is coming unstitched at the sides.  One tassel at the base has lost its metallic fringe.  Not too bad for a banner that was probably constructed over 120 years ago in the first years of our organization.  Jessica also recommended that a box lined with acid-free paper be built to house the banner and that it only be hung vertically during display on special occasions.

The society is appealing to the membership to help fund the nearly $2,000 cost of a full restoration.  How much of the time consuming, detailed work that can be accomplished will be dependent on your generosity.  This is a great opportunity for us to move beyond our usual social activities and focus some of our attention on preserving and restoring our Usticesi cultural heritage.  Also returned with the banner were 3 ten-foot poles, with impressive brass finials, for bearing the banner and American and Italian flags.  Imagine the enormous sense of pride at the next feast day mass when we can proceed as a group fronted by this massive display just as our grandparents and great-grandparents did 100 years ago.  This is part of what we are about and I hope you will agree that this is a pursuit worthy of your contribution.  Your tax-deductible donations will be dedicated to the restoration fund.  Please give this appeal your thoughtful consideration and help revive a potent symbol of the Usticesi community in America.

Checks should be made out to San Bartolomeo Society and also include Restoration Fund on the memo line.

Mille Grazie!