The legend starts way back in the year 830 when the town was still known as 'Zabuth' in honour of its founder, the Arab Emir Al Zabut. The town was enjoying a period of prosperity under the Arab ruling and was protected by a large Arab fort which dominated the town. A large staircase was built into the rocks around the fort for the Arab troops to utilise in times of conflict and attack. In fact, the town of Zabuth was continuously under siege at that time by the troops of Federico II who was determined to convert the residents to Christianity. It was this conflict between Christians and Muslims (at that time known as Saracens) which led to a great war breaking out in the early thirteenth century.
Between the years of 1223 and 1225, the town of Zabuth was the location of horrific violence and hundreds of the town's inhabitants lost their lives, as did many of the Christian soldiers sent by Federico II. The legend states that bodies were constantly thrown from the high walls of the fort onto the rocks below.
The Arabs were defeated and from that day everything changed in the town of Sambuca. The Christian occupants of the town often awoke from their sleep to hear the tortured cries of the war's victims as their souls wandered through the tiny cobbled streets for all eternity. When there was a full moon, it is said that the shadow of an enormous Saracen warrior would appear on the steps of the stone staircase and throw his hands to the sky with a desperate, tormented wail. When commemoration ceremonies were held for the lives of the fallen Christian soldiers, the haunting cries coming from the streets would be heard even above the sobs of the gathered mourners.
This dreadful fear amongst the town's inhabitants lasted for many years. So much so that in the sixteenth century, a church was built in dedication to the 'Madonna del Rosario' by the Jesuit Gaspare Paraninfo to exorcise the town's lost souls. On the rock face next to the stone staircase where the apparition of Emir Al Zabut would appear, a large mural was painted of the Madonna (the Virgin Mary) to keep any Saracen spirits away. This mural became known as the 'Madonna della Scala'.
The painting was eroded away by nature's elements long ago but the church of the 'Madonna del Rosario' still exists, as does the cursed staircase ..... however even the town's worst sceptics are loathed to set foot upon it!
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