Greek mythology placed the forge of
in the cavern of volcanoes.
According to legend, the strange noises heard in the caverns of the island of Vulcano were made by the hammers and the crackling of the fire of the god’s forge.
In Christian times, they were instead attributed to the screams and groans of the damned in Hell. For Saint Gregory the Great the volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands were the gates to Hell, their mouths erupting the fire of torment that God makes manifest to men, to lead them to follow the path of salvation.
Numerous legends appeared around the volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands. One of the most famous is the hermit of Lipari, narrated by Saint Gregory the Great himself; on the same day of Theodoric the Great’s death in 526 AD, he allegedly saw the soul of the king of the Ostrogoths, half-naked, barefoot and with his hands tied, thrown into Vulcano’s crater by Pope John and the patrician Simmachus whom he had killed. Charles Martel, who in 741 AD had stopped the Muslim invasion in Poitiers and saved European civilisation, supposedly ended up in Stromboli’s crater.
Saint Peter Damian tells us, in the life of Saint Odilo, the abbot of the monastery of Cluny in Burgundy who lived in the first half of the 9th century, that a religious man from Aquitaine, returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, had to take refuge on Vulcano because of a storm and here found an old hermit. It seems that the hermit heard these groans as well as the feeble and whining moaning of the devils, who enjoyed tormenting the damned, when some of them were taken from them because of prayers and alms by worshippers. The religious man, having returned to France, reported this to Saint Odilo, who then ordered that all the convents of the Benedictine order be dedicated to the commemoration of the departed on the day after All Saints’ Day. And so All Souls’ Day was established on 2 November, and is still universally celebrated today.