Italian traditions: The Madonna that runs away of Sulmona
- WTI Magazine #138 Apr 17, 2021
April, in Latin Aprilis, in Italian Aprile, according to some scholars owes its name to the Latin verb aperire, in Italian aprire: to open. April is the month in which the world germinates, opens up bringing to light the fruits of the "manifestation". The act of opening is the vital dynamism, a hymn to life itself. When in the Latin language a word is preceded by the prefix "a", a phenomenon called "alpha privative" occurs: the prefix "a" transforms the word into the opposite of the meaning of what comes after the "a". In this case, a-perire therefore indicates the opposite of perire, which in Latin means to die. April, from aperire, therefore indicates the opposite of death: life. Opening is a positive reaction, not passivity towards death, in the sign of the goddess Venus who is Love. It is the month of Fortune, the strength that is not obtained with supplication, but is conquered with Victory: this is also the meaning of Easter.
Sulmona, is a beautiful city in Abruzzo, land of the most famous confetti in the world: the confetti are small oval shaped sweets, formed by a center of almonds or hazelnut covered by a layer of sugar. They are used in parties for baptisms, communions, confirmations and weddings, but currently also in other special occasions of one's life.
In Sulmona is renewed every year the rite of the "Madonna that runs away". On this occasion, thousands of people descend from the valleys and neighboring towns, dressed in the colors of Spring. They gather in Piazza Garibaldi, one of the largest squares in Italy. In the background stands the church of Santa Maria della Tomba, so called because three days before Holy Easter, the Madonna dressed in black, therefore dressed in mourning for the death of her Son, is locked inside and no one can enter.
On Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, after the 11 o'clock mass, two processions of the Confraternity of Santa Maria di Loreto leave, one headed by Saint Peter and the other headed by Saint John. One at a time they knock on the church asking Our Lady to come out because Jesus is risen. She does not believe St. Peter and says that he is a liar and after much insistence of both saints, she comes out carried in procession by young men, among the most important of the town. On the opposite side of the square the risen Son awaits her under a canopy.
The procession of the Madonna who doesn't believe comes out slowly and begins to sway the passo dello struscio. When she reaches the middle of the square, Mary sees her Son and the miracle happens: her black dress falls off and the Madonna turns into the Spring, dressed in a beautiful green dress embroidered with gold and at the same time 12 white pigeons are released into the sky. At that moment the group of young people carrying the statue of the Blessed Mother begin to run fast, to allow the Mother and Son to meet.
The run is a very important moment because if it goes straight without hindrance, the year will be favorable. If the statue were to fall or skid, it would be a sign of a bad omen. When the embrace between Mother and Son takes place, the feast begins: the bells ring, as does the band. The moved faithful cry and embrace each other. The real feast and the long procession begin.
The Madonna who runs away is a feast of pagan origins and retraces the life of the seed that from under the ground, after the long period of Winter, sprouts again in Spring for a new life, full of fertility and abundance.