This weekend culminates the month-long, annual celebration in Castellammare del Golfo of their Patroness, Maria SS. del Soccorso (Super Saint Mary of the Rescue). Last night they carried her statue through the town streets to the marina and brought her out to sea, where dozens of boats followed her path around the harbor. On Sunday night, the faithful will process their statue (Pictured is a miniature copy from an alter to SS. Maria that I photographed in town.) one final time through the town’s streets before returning her to the Mother Church, all while chanting and singing in the local Sicilian. The events are accompanied by choreographed pyrotechnics, fireworks, and music.
Devotees of Maria SS. del Soccorso hold fast to their legend. It goes something like this: On July 13, 1718, Castellammare del Golfo found itself the center of a battle between King Philip V of Spain and Amedeo of Savoy over the possession of Sicily. A Spanish ship that was being pursued by 5 British ships took refuge in the town’s port and ultimately its castle. A fierce battle raged in the harbor. Terrified, the locals prayed to the Virgin Mother, begging for safety and help. Most fled to the surrounding hills. In the midst of cannonballs flying through the night sky, from the stairs leading down to the marina, a Madonna dressed in white and accompanied by a row of angels appeared. The heavenly vision shocked the British sailors, and afraid of the consequences of their aggression, they retreated, leaving the townspeople of Castellammare del Golfo unharmed. Because their prayers were answered, to this day, devotees of Super Saint Maria honor her rescue.