The procession of the Virgin Mary of Porto Salvo, commonly called ‘Madonna a mare’, takes place every year in Soverato (in the province of Catanzaro) on the second Sunday of August and is undoubtedly the most popular local event of the year, as characterised by a strong religious sentiment intertwined with ancient traditions and local folklore.
It is no coincidence that, for this occasion, the beaches of Soverato are stormed not only by locals but also by thousands of tourists and believers from all over the world. ‘This celebration,’ recalls local historian Giuseppe Pisano:
starts early in the morning, on Sunday, with the celebration of Holy Mass, attended by civil and military authorities. The gathering then takes place in the afternoon, around 5pm, at the fishermen’s church. From here, the walk towards the sea begins. Afterwards, the Madonna is placed on the prow of the host vessel and the procession begins towards the borders, south and north of the city; while from the coast, as she passes, the faithful celebrate in various ways: with dips, fireworks and more.
From the above description, it is clear that the central moment of the celebration is undoubtedly represented by the imposing procession that begins in the so-called ‘Fishermen’s Church’ and ends in the waters of Soverato, where the boat in which the statue of the Virgin Mary is placedpresides over the procession made up of the numerous boats of fishermen (but also of other citizens) who religiously follow their Protector.
As the statue passes, the sea waters are blessed, and all those present, amassed at various points along the coast, simultaneously dive into the sea trying to swim to the Virgin.
It is the most enthralling moment of the entire celebration which most impresses those who witness this spectacle for the first time.
All this is topped off by the rumbling of fireworks organised by the managers of various bathing establishments which in reality are only the prelude to the splendid fireworks display on the seashore organised by the Municipality of Soverato at the stroke of midnight.
The devotion of the Virgin Mary of Poliporto has very remote origins.
In fact, legend has it that in the year 1906, a naval officer (long-serving captain Rocco Caminiti) was caught in a violent storm that threatened to destroy his ship and its entire crew, so that in those dramatic moments, he invoked the help of the Virgin, promising, in the event of salvation, to honour her annually with a feast in her honour.
Having miraculously obtained the salvation of the entire crew, the Soverato family of the Caminiti, keeping that ancient promise, built the ‘Fishermen’s Church, the main place of worship of the Virgin Mary, in which Mass is celebrated in her honour and from which the procession towards the sea departs.
Anyone wishing to visit this church can do so by going to a central point of the town, namely Via San Martino.
For the record, the procession of the Virgin Mary has only been interrupted twice in history, in 1955, due to the sudden death of Senator Filippo Caminiti, son of Captain Rocco and during the pandemic wave of 2020.
This year, the celebration is scheduled for 14 August 2022 (as the second Sunday of the month).
The date is near, therefore, all that remains for us to do is to prepare ourselves in the best possible way, as we do every year, to relive the magic of this day in the company of friends and relatives, ready to dive once again into the colours of a Soverato dressed in festive attire.
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Francesco Tirinato – Jump Team
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