Study Guide

The Leopard Religion

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa


"A fine thing, science, unless it takes to attacking religion!" (1.36)

King Ferdinand is all about science, except when it goes after religion. For this reason, he should issue a royal decree ordering science to stay at least ten miles away from religion at all times. Unfortunately, his country collapses before he can do that.

[But] it was the religious houses which gave the city its grimness and its character, its sedateness and also the sense of death which not even the vibrant Sicilian light could ever manage to disperse. (1.59)

This passage paints religion in a pretty negative light. In fact, it's painted with no light at all. Instead, religion seems like this grim, totally un-fun presence in Sicily. Maybe it's all those rules about what people can and can't do.

"I'm a sinner, I know, doubly a sinner, by Divine Law and by Stella's human love. There's no doubt of that, and tomorrow I'll go and confess to Father Pirrone." (1.68)

Fabrizio knows that he's done wrong when he cheats on his wife. It's hard to tell how guilty he actually feels, though, when he decides to confess his sin to Father Pirrone the next day. Does he expect confession to make everything all better, or does he actually feel bad? It's really hard to know.

"Then, of course, our property, which is the patrimony of the poor, will be seized and carved up among the most brazen of their leaders; who will then feed all the destitute who are sustained and guided by the Church today?" (1.114)

One of Father Pirrone's main concerns about the collapse of his country is what will happen to all of the church's property. If the free market comes to Sicily, the church will be expected to create revenue and pay money for all its properties. In this case, the poor might have nowhere left to go, since the church is the only place that looks after them.

[He] made the sign of the Cross, a gesture of devotion which in Sicily has a nonreligious meaning more frequently than is realized. (3.58)

Making the sign of the cross is more a matter of habit than an actual token of belief in Sicilian culture, at least according to the narrator of this book. If you make the same motion enough times, Lampedusa thinks, you're bound to get a little complacent about it.

In that room Giuseppe Corbèra, Duke of Salina, had scourged himself alone, in sight of his God and his estates, and it must have seemed to him that the drops of his own blood were about to rain down on the land and redeem it. (4.39)

One of Fabrizio's ancestors used to whip and wound himself as punishment for all the sins he committed. That sounds pretty extreme, but there's also something poetic about the way the book describes it. All in all, it seems like the narrator doesn't know one way or the other whether we should celebrate or ridicule this kind of behavior.

"But if that's what they're like, Father, they'll all go to hell." (5.20)

Father Pirrone's peasant friend thinks that if the aristocracy is as indulgent and immoral as Pirrone says they are, they'll all burn in hell. After living with Fabrizio for years, though, Pirrone is more understanding. He knows that the Pince has always gotten exactly what he wants, but unlike many modern readers, he doesn't think that this is always a bad thing.

Curiously enough, it was religion that drew him from this zoologic vision, for from the group of crinolined monkeys there rose a monotonous, continuous sacred invocation. (6.27)

When Fabrizio looks at the painted murals in his ancestral palace, he finds that it's the religious symbols that draw his eye the most. This is probably because he's looked at these paintings every day of his life without ever giving them much thought. Now that he's getting philosophical about his place in the universe, he starts taking religion a little more seriously.

He was absolved; his chin must have been propped on his chest, for the priest had to kneel down to place the Host between his lips. (7.21)

In his final moments of death, Fabrizio receives a communion wafer from a Catholic priest. We're not sure how much he actually believes in this stuff, but his daughters are absolutely certain when it comes to their faith. They insist on him having a proper Catholic blessing before he dies.

The reference to the Holy Father was not, actually, very opportune: Carolina was one of those Catholics who consider themselves to be in closer possession of religious truths than the Pope himself. (8.9)

Carolina di Salina is so certain in her religious faith that she thinks she knows better than the Pope. This is ironic because according to Catholic faith, the pope can never be wrong. So Carolina's pride in her religious knowledge is actually a form of sin. So take that, Carolina.