1. Introduction: Hunger, war and plagues in the rural world
The rural world of the past was constantly threatened by disasters against the people, the pets and the crops. With these misfortunes God punished his children for their sins. The faithful, therefore, turned to Mary and the Saints to intercede with God for His forgiveness and protection. The request to a Saint could be reinforced by promising to erect a material sign in their honor - a shrine, an altar, painting and so on - to thank and glorify them.
A peste, fame et bello libera nos, Domine! From pestilence, famine, and battle, Good Lord, deliver us!
(from the "Lithany of the Saints")
The sacred shrines, called “capitello” in Italian because they were erected preferably "at the head" (Latin: "in capite") i.e. at the beginning of the places where the protection of the Saint should manifest itself - the countryside, the mountain, the land, the house, at crossings where the roads end and start - remain as signs of a rural world which has since disappeared.