Spring is coming and it’s the season here that’s dedicated, by the common faith, to the Mother of God. Indeed, most of our religious festivals during this time of year are dedicated to Mary. And it’s not hard to figure out why the beauty of spring, with its colours and scents, would become associated with the most beautiful of all beautiful women.
There are lots of legends centred around April and May, stories passed down from generation to generation, and these have given rise to all the festivals: they centre around miracles, extraordinary happenings that the people have put down to divine intervention.
Here in Leuca, for example, on 13 April we celebrate the annual Festival in honour of St. Mary, to remember now and always the miracle that saved Leuca from a tidal wave in 365 AD that lasted days and days. On this occasion there are numerous rites at the Basilica of Santa Maria de Finibus Terrae, so it is an unmissable opportunity to visit it and discover why it has so much immortal charm, pausing to admire the chapel of the Madonna, with its glittering gilded interior.
But it’s not only in Leuca, as we said, that Mary is worshipped in springtime.
The name of Mary is whispered from the north the south of the Salento peninsula and is celebrated with roses and other beautiful flowers, a real sight to behold. The Madonna of Constantinople, so called because she would free the city from the Turks, is celebrated in Cannole on 6 April; and that of Arcona in Castrignano dei Greci, the Madonna of the Annunciation, in Castro on 24 April, with a side festival of a typical local dish, fish cooked ‘sarsa’ style, where it’s fried and then marinated in a particular way, a unique local delicacy. The same Madonna of the Annunciation is also celebrated in Diso on 25 April.
The people’s love for the Blessed Virgin is also marked in May, with festivities in Calimera, Taviani, Cavallino and in many other places around Salento, each one having a particular rite, legend, or tradition worth discovering. Then there is the Madonna of Farming, and the Madonna of the Greenhouse: just from their names it’s clear that they bless the harvest, with that special mix of Christian and pagan that is typical of Salento religious practices. Other Virgins take their names from the miracles seen here. Others still, from the places where statues or holy effigies have been erected, like the Madonna of Monte di Cavallino, for example.
This proliferation of names is simply an indication of deep affection, of each place wanting a little bit of of the Sacred all for itself. Such a magic relationship with faith you won’t find anywhere else, almost a sense of being related to the divine, so come to Leuca and taste it for yourself. We’re sure that you, too, will be enchanted by it all.