Procession of the Madonna

Procession of the Madonna on my 5th Blogiversary

This past week I happened to be in Reggio Calabria for the Procession of the Madonna. The festival is a constant for the city, not only in religious terms but with regard to families, neighbors, friends and between fellow Calabresi. As I followed the celebrations, I realized that the procession has also been a constant for me over the years I lived in the area and on my subsequent return visits.


When I moved to Calabria almost eleven years ago to teach English in a small school in Locri, I never imagined I would have had such a long-term bond with the region. I saw and experienced a great deal in those years, but documentation never occurred to me. This was pre-Instagram. I didn’t even have a digital camera, and each photo was precious.

Ten years ago, I took only one photo of my first Procession of the Madonna. Why hadn’t I splurged on another roll of film? Well, I wasn’t on Facebook and I didn’t have a blog. It just didn’t cross my mind.

In my book Calabria: The Other Italy, I wrote about my first procession of the Madonna in a section entitled “Reggio’s Guardian Angel.” I had the opportunity to view the procession from the balcony of a lovely home overlooking il Corso (the main street), and I felt lucky to have such a prime position as well as to have snapped the picture that I used in my book.

Procession of the Madonna

Page from Calabria: The Other Italy, e-book version


I have since attended other Festivals of the Madonna in Reggio and have taken countless photos and even videos. My blogpost The Festival of the Madonna in Reggio Calabria presents the history and particulars of the tradition in which the Madonna della Consolazione is carried from her home in the Basilica of Eremo to the Cathedral of Reggio.

religious procession

The Madonna returns to Eremo, Reggio Calabria

The year I lived on the Corso, I had an excellent vantagepoint of the procession from my rooftop terrace apartment, and by that time, also a digital camera. My brief YouTube video Procession of the Madonna in Reggio Calabria gives an idea of the bird’s-eye perspective.

Southern Italian religious procession

Procession of the Madonna in Reggio Calabria

A couple of years ago, just as the Madonna was about to leave the cathedral for the return to Eremo, it began to rain. This was the November procession, and the forecast was particularly menacing, so she turned back around, and the event was postponed for the following week. The painting was taken out of the vara (elaborate carrying structure) under the watchful eyes of the clergy and was put back into the sanctuary frame, an ornate golden casing with a large, gold M in the center. Madonna? Maria? Had someone tried to sneak St. Francis or St. George into the frame when the Madonna was being hosted elsewhere?

Processione della Madonna della Consolazione

Waiting for the painting of the Madonna to return to the frame in the Cathedral of Reggio Calabria


Procession of the Madonna

The “Vara” with the painting of the Madonna leaves the Cathedral in Reggio Calabria

For this year’s procession I was better equipped to take photos and videos. I was amidst a great mass of people for the exit from and entrance to the cathedral on the Tuesday evening following the Madonna’s Saturday arrival to Reggio. The crowd was enormous. However, with the multitudes in attendance and the constant flow of those moving one way or another for a better view or to meet friends, the situation was quite calm, perhaps because it was a flock in the religious sense of the word. And even the non-religious couldn’t have helped but be moved by the energy that emerged from this ancient ritual of the people.

Calabrian festival

Crowd following the Procession of the Madonna

The vara is heavy, and with many rests for the carriers, proceeds slowly down the street, which gave me the opportunity to return to the beautiful home from where I witnessed my first procession ten years earlier. The rooms were just as I remembered them. The stunning crystal chandelier and gilded antique furniture still shone. My genteel hosts served cool drinks and cookies on elegant trays, and the views from the wrap-around balcony could not be beat.

Procession of the Madonna

Procession of the Madonna 2019


There’s something for all ages at the Procession of the Madonna, from balloons to nuts to candy, and piles of the traditional mostacciolo cookies, also known as ‘nzudda and mastazzolu.

Italian cookies and candy

Sweets at the Festival of the Madonna

Later on, the Madonna enters the cathedral surrounded by atmospheric festival lights. The celebrations have not finished, however. There are sausages to consume; there’s a carnival on the waterfront, and at midnight spectacular fireworks light up the night sky over the Strait of Messina.


Midnight fireworks to close the festival in Reggio Calabria

Calabria bookRead more about the fascinating region in the toe of the boot in Calabria: The Other Italymy non-fiction book about daily life, history, culture, art, food and society in this important area of South Italy. It’s available in paperback and e-book versions.

Connect on social media: “Like” Calabria: The Other Italy’s Facebook page and see this year’s video of the Procession of the Madonnafollow me on Karen’s Instagram and Karen’s Twitter for more beautiful pictures and information. Or join me on a small-group Calabria Tour!

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CALABRIA: THE OTHER ITALY makes a great gift!

Comments 8

  1. Excellent Karen..I lookforward to your emails. You make me feel like I’m back in Italy. My husband and I have enjoyed festivals in Italy many times….and your pictures depict perfectly the same walk we participated in years ago! We have your book

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  2. We still haven’t managed to fit in a visit to Calabria, which is a shame as it sounds like a very interesting and unusual region. But it’s definitely on our list. I love your descriptions of the processions of the Madonna and the photos are wonderful.

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  3. Auguri per il tuo bloghiversario Karen! 5 years is a long time and a lot of posts. The fotos in this post are stunning-especially of the crowds. Now I am curious to see what the painting looks like up close. I’ll have to look it up. Here’s to 25 more years of blogging 🍷. Ciao, Cristina

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  4. Love your photos! We arrived in Reggio on 9/21 & stayed in a great apartment between the Lungomare & Via Garibaldi. From one terrace, we could see Castello Aragonese, & from the other, the rides set up for the festa. Great city! Moved on to Zambrone next, with visits to Tropea, Pizzo, & Vibo Valentia, & just arrived in Praialonga, near Isola Capo Rizzuto. Loving our first trip to Calabria! Your book has been very helpful.

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      Sounds like you’ve been having a wonderful time in great locations. Thanks for commenting – I always love to hear my book has been helpful!

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