- 31. 03. 2024
- 11:00 - 14:00
Madonna che scappa in piazza Sulmona
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La Madonna che scappa in piazza, Sulmona, Abruzzo
The event “La Madonna che scappa in piazza Sulmona” takes place in Sulmona, a town in Abruzzo, Italy. Sulmona is famous for this important religious event that takes place on Easter Sunday in Piazza Garibaldi, the largest square in the city.
This ritual, which has a strong religious meaning, has also taken on anthropological elements over time, so that the event always attracts the interest and devotion of the local and national media.
Origins of the ritual “La Madonna che scappa in piazza”.
In order to understand the origins of this event and the cultural context in which it is rooted, we must consider one of the most important moments in the history of theater: the transition from medieval liturgical drama (centered on the theme of Christ’s death and resurrection) to sacred representation.
This was a crucial event for the theater, since with the transition from Latin to the vernacular, “dramatic poetry broke out of the closed church and the schoolroom to appear in the square.”
An important remnant of the liturgical drama of the mid-14th century, considered “the admirable monument of the religious and cultural life of Sulmona at the beginning of the Renaissance”, is the Officium.
This document was found in the archives of the Cathedral of Sulmona and shows the part played by four soldiers in a representation of the Passion of Christ.
Processions with statues spread in a later period, also due to the practical handling of simulacra. These pictorial processions took on “grand and spectacular forms, with codified patterns developed since the time of the Counter-Reformation.”
This brief historical reconstruction does not allow us to say with certainty whether the “Madonna che scappa in piazza” is derived from the Officium or from later events, but it does offer suggestions for reflection on the probable archetypes in which the ritual has its roots.
Surviving documents from local and non-local archives indicate that the depiction occurred before 1860.
The Sulmona representation is actually linked to a series of similar religious events throughout Italy. Examples of this can be found in Asti, Caltagirone, Capri, Mazara del Vallo, Castelvetrano, Corropoli, etc. The central theme of these rites is the encounter between Mother and Son and the presence of statues of the Virgin Mary, the Risen Christ and saints or, in some cases, angels announcing the Resurrection.
However, the Sulmona event differs from all the others by a special feature: the flight of the Virgin after the recognition of her son. This element makes it more similar to the representations that take place in some “Sicilian places called Aurore”.
The event: La Madonna che scappa in piazza
The “Madonna che scappa in piazza” is part of a religious cycle that begins in the Easter season on Holy Thursday and continues on Good Friday with the procession of the dead Christ, organized by the Brotherhood of the Trinity.
The Easter event is organized by the Confraternity of Santa Maria di Loreto, whose members are easily recognized by their clothing: green sash on white shirt.
The square – La Piazza Garibaldi
On Easter morning, Piazza Garibaldi is flooded by a multitude of people, crowded everywhere and clearing only the path that the Madonna will walk to meet her risen Son (barriers limit the walk).
On this special day, the square appears in the gaze of every privileged person who gets to experience the picturesque and impressive event. It is colorful and emotionally charged, filled with tension, fears and expectations. Even after a long time, you can experience it vividly in your memory, as if it were an indelible photograph.
Crowds fill the entire square, from terraces to balconies, roofs, windows and stairs. Everything is full of curious and passionate people, eagerly waiting for 12:00, when the event begins.
Sequence of the ritual “La Madonna che scappa in piazza
While in the square there is chaos and excited joy, on the eastern side in the church of San Filippo Neri there is another dimension – that of holiness. Here the Virgin Mary is locked in her mourning and dressed in mourning. She can do nothing but mourn for her son who died and sacrificed himself to save humanity.
Next to the statue of the Virgin Mary, two saints, San Pietro and San Giovanni, participate in the ritual and have the task of informing the Virgin that her Son has risen.
The statues are accompanied by a long line of bearers of lanterns and carried by “four Lauretani”. They reach the square at 11:30 and start moving towards the church of San Filippo, where they stop at the threshold.
Tradition has it that before leaving the place of prayer, three calls are made by the saints to announce the resurrection of Christ.
The first to knock on the door of the church is San Giovanni, but the Madonna does not answer this first call. The second attempt is made by Pietro, who achieves the same result, until finally with the third attempt, made again by San Giovanni (the apostle favored by Jesus), the gate is opened.
At this point, not yet fully convinced by the words of the apostles, the Virgin leaves the place of prayer and moves slowly to the square, accompanied by the statues of the saints at some distance.
The Madonna continues with the same slow speed until the height of the Fontanone (about in the middle of the square), in an atmosphere of tension and eager expectation of the participants:
- …here she comes…
- …Has she seen him? No, it’s still too early….
- …have they arrived at the Fontanone?
- …how much is still missing?
- …are we there yet?
- Here she is, she’s coming!
- Did she see him!
- We are here!…
And as the tension rises on the faces of the fraternity members, the Virgin finally reaches the risen Son and begins her mad run to unite with him, who stands triumphant at the end of the square under a red canopy placed between the arches of the aqueduct.
As the Madonna makes her hopeful run, her appearance also changes: The black cloak falls to reveal a green dress, the white handkerchief in her right hand that had been part of her mourning outfit is replaced by a red rose, while twelve white doves rise into the air, accompanied by the sound of firecrackers.
Applause, gunshots and the flight of doves trigger a general participation and emotion, as this representation is able to appeal to the deepest feelings of the human soul and evoke authentic values such as the deep connection between a mother and her child.
Throughout the performance, these symbolic simulacra seem to have a life of their own. The virgin seems to have really cried and suffered for the death of her son, and now that she has found him again, she seems happy to open up to life again. After the meeting has taken place, these become again simple statues and take part in the municipal procession, in which also the authorities and both brotherhoods participate.
Superstitions and beliefs
The run of the Madonna che scappa in piazza is strictly controlled by the participants. Tradition and popular belief say that if the Madonna completes her run without incident, the coming year will be positive for the city and nature will generously donate its fruits. Other elements are also important for good omens, such as the flight of the doves (which must rise high in the air and not fly low) or the veil of the statue, which at the moment of falling to make way for the beautiful curls of the Virgin, must free itself without entanglement.
Important note: Disclaimer – Italien.events is not the organizer of the events published here and therefore not responsible for program changes, cancellation of the event and possibly incorrect information. The editorial team of Italien.events always tries to provide detailed and accurate information. However, it is possible that events are changed and they were not updated in a timely manner. Detailed information about the dates, times and programs can be obtained directly from the organizer. Please check the organizer’s website or social media for updates before your trip!
Important note: Disclaimer – Italien.events is not the organizer of the events published here and therefore not responsible for program changes and cancellation of the event. The editorial team of Italien.events always tries to provide detailed and accurate information. However, it is possible that events are changed and they were not updated in a timely manner. Detailed information about the dates, times and programs can be obtained directly from the organizer. Please check the organizer’s website or social media for updates before your trip!
Photos: © Enit / Regione Abruzzo