Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Madonna of the Arch

Since the XV century  in Napoli and the surrounding area the cult of the Madonna Dell' Arco is celebrated every sunday and culminates in a big procession of over tree hundred  thousand pilgrims: Fuienti (those who flee), every Monday in Albis in the church of Santa Anastasia at nine kilometres from Naples. 

About six thousand ex-voto are conserved in the sanctuary, paintings, minted medals and other objects produced in gratitude for grace received, documenting the popular anxiety of salvation which remains unaltered during all those centuries.

On the day of the rites, each group of Fuienti forms a Squadrone and they proceed to the sanctuary bringing their donations for the Madonna. Usually are donations in money but anything can be the testimony of their faith from a dove to a painting.In some areas and small villages they still use to have a competition for the best painting to be offered to the Madonna. THe painting usually are of religious subject but anything can be portrayed. 

Futball's Justice is the title of the painting depicting Maradona arguing with a referee while Jesus was guarding him.
Futbal's Justice  won the competition in 1989 in the  city off Afragola.

When the Fuienti reach the church , they all fall upon their knees order to cross the threshold,  some remain upon their knees and crawl to the central altar.In previous years some of them would lick the floor with their tongues as they crawled to the main altar, but this behaviour it is been diluted with time.

This attitude of submission and of need for punishment, probably  founds his  origins within the origins  of the cult: in the fifteenth century, a man was playing a street game with a ball and, having lost the game he became angry so in sign of disrespect he threw his ball to the face of a Madonna that was near by, probably under a roman arch. As a result, the image of the Madonna started to cry blood. This mad was accused of blasphemy and after a summary trial he was hanged from the closest tree.The morning after this episode, the tree it is believed to have been founded completely dried.The second episode that consolidated what was already a cult, happened hundred years after:A middle aged woman, which in the church it is still nowadays described as "deform on the body and soul", received a grace from the Madonna but, instead of being thankful, she committed herself to being not grateful and blaspheme. The story tells that this woman one day simply lost both her feet, they simply detached from her legs.Without any mention of the possibility a gangrene, both feet of Aurelia Del Prete are still displayed in the sanctuary.

It is not usual that the Catholic church associate the image of the virgin Mary with violence or punishment, the case of the Madonna of the Arch it is quite unique and quite unique is the fact that most of the pilgrims and often the strongest believers of this powerful Madonna, are from troubled back ground as states evidence the great abundance of guns and knifes donated as ex-voto.