August 15, a national holiday in Italy, marks the Feast of the Assumption, the day that the Virgin Mother ascended body and soul into Heaven. Thoughout Sicily it is celebrated in various ways, most often with processions, festivals, and gatherings with near and dear ones at the sea or in the mountains.
The Assumption is also known as Ferragosto, a name that has roots in the Latin “Feriae Augustin,” or Emperor Augustus’ holidays, which marked a time of rest and celebration at the conclusion of the arduous growning and harvest seasons. In pre-Christian times, it celebrated the bounty provided by Mother Earth. In Christian times, it celebrates the Virgin Mother’s life.
The image pictured is of the Coronation of Mary in Heaven. It is one of many master stucco scenes from the Oratorio di SS. Rosario in Santa Cita in Palermo. Created by Giacomo Serpotta (1656-1732), it illustrates the Madonna being crowned by Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.