Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Festa della Madonna Bianca

On August 17th, my favorite village in Liguria (Portovenere of course!) celebrates its patron saint, which happens to be the Virgin Mary. It's official name is "La Festa della Madonna Bianca" or Festival of the White Madonna. One of the many urban legends behind the day goes something like this..

"A private washed up on shore with a bottle containing a crude drawing of the Virgin Mary. The priest from San Lorenzo found the pirate and brought him up to the church to sleep. The next day the pirate was gone but what remained was a gold inlaid fresco of the White Madonna..."

The true story is also hearsay, but the painting dates back to the 16th century - and it is quite lovely. So every August 17th, the town is lit with torches (in places you can't even imagine they can get!) and the villagers transport the Madonna from San Lorenzo through the tiny streets ending up at the 13th century Gothic church of San Pietro for the rest of the evening.

The town comes alive in burning torches. The bay is filled with boats and yachts. Horns blare, music is everywhere and people celebrate another wonderful day in this fairy tale like seaside village. It is a setting that photos (especially mine which did not turn out anything like I'd hoped!) do no justice. You'll just have to come see it for yourself...



6 comments:

Jilli said...

Beautiful! I can just imagine the lights on the water...

casalba said...

Actually, I think your first picture of the evening lights DID capture the atmosphere.

Love the bit: '...goes something like this'. It's often difficult to get to the bottom of the actual facts of these ceremonies, isn't it? Adds to the mystery somehow.

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Oh I'm so happy you wrote about this! You didn't happen to take video did you? I wanted to write about this for my column at Italy Magazine, but I couldn't find a decent video....

Cynthia Rae said...

Sounds like a wonderful feast! Our town saint is also the Madonna (though I am not sure which one), but our feast looks like nothing compared to this one. Maybe we can make it up next year to check it out for ourselves.

Thanks for the sweet comment on my blog. October sounds great!

Cyn

Megan in Liguria said...

Ciao Michelle - Unfortunately no video. You'll need to come up yourself next year and tape! :)

little red hen said...

Maybe I will come one day and see it for myself in the not too distant future, my children are almost grown...August 17th is my birthday and it would be a great way to spend it.