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  • The Fisherman's Feast

    by Anthony Parente

    Each year, since 1911, the people of Boston's historic North End have held the Fisherman's Feast to honor Madonna del Soccorso. This event was started when immigrants from the town of Sciacca, Sicily moved to America in the early part of the 20th century. Even though they had left their town in Sicily they did not forget what the Madonna del Soccorso had done for the people of Sciacca. With that in mind they wanted to continue their devotion to the Patron of Sciacca.

    As legend has it the Madonna del Soccorso appeared before an Augustinian monk by the name of Nicolo Bruno. Nicolo was suffering from fevers and a broken neck. The Madonna told Bruno to rise to his feet and tell the people of Sciacca that I am here to protect them. As you can imagine some people thought the monk was delirious from his fevers. This was not the only story surrounding the Madonna. There have been numerous accounts in which the Madonna appeared and protected the people of Sciacca. Many pictures of the Madonna show her holding a club in one hand, baby Jesus in the other and a child clinging to her leg. The club and child clinging to her leg are as a result of the Madonna saving the child from the clutches of the devil. The Madonna walked up to the devil, took her club and with one swing knocked the devil to the ground. The child immediately ran to the Madonna and clung to her leg for protection.

    To honor the Madonna del Soccorso the people had a statue built. In 1503, in the city of Palermo, Guliano Mancini and Bartolomeo Birrittaro completed a marble statue of the Madonna. Upon its completion the people realized that there was no way the statue could be brought to the town of Sciacca. This is when the fisherman of Sciacca stepped in to help. They sent their boats to Palermo in hopes they could bring the statue home to the town of Sciacca. It took over 200 hundred fishermen to carry the heavy marble statue to the dock to be loaded on the largest boat. Once on the boat it made it difficult for the boat to move. The remaining boats were connected to the boat carrying the statue and tugged it home. From there on the fishermen have been the only people permitted to carry the statue.

    This festival is held every year around the Feast of the Assumption, which is August 15, on the corner of Fleet and North Streets in Boston's North End. To find out more about the feast, the exact dates and time, schedule of events and how to get there you can visit The Fisherman's Feast Web site. If you live in Boston or plan to be there during the festival then this is one event you don't want to miss.

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