Our Lady of the Letter (the patroness)

The importance it has in Messina

It is difficult to find a Messina who is not  fond  of  Our Lady of the Letter . The Madonna has been watching over the port of Messina for almost ninety years from her stele  . She stands at the end of the characteristic  sickle-shaped harbor  and protects the entire city from there.

Bigger than it looks

To see it from the sea promenade, from the tram, or from the hydrofoils, to the  tourists  who visit Messina, the Madonnina could seem really  small . Nothing could be more wrong: the  gilded bronze statue alone  is seven meters high and the globe that serves as a pedestal measures just over two and a half meters. All on a thirty-five meter high votive stele .

The history of the statue of the Madonna della Lettera

It was Archbishop  Angelo Paino  who commissioned the construction of the stele, another of the ambitious reconstruction projects of the city after the disaster of  the 1908 earthquake  developed by the “Mason of Christ”. For the realization of the stele, Paino commissioned the director of the bishop’s technical office Francesco Barbaro, while the beautiful sculpture with the blessing hand was the work of  Tore Edmondo Calabrò.

On 12 August 1934 the work was inaugurated and blessed by  Pope Pius XI  in connection with Rome with a special radio system. Such was the media resonance of the event that the  Times of London reported on it.

Why exactly Mary of Nazareth?

We have to go back many centuries to find out why the Madonna della Lettera became the  patroness of Messina . The story narrates, in fact, that in the year 42 AD  Paul of Tarsus  arrived in Messina to spread the Gospel. He returned to Palestine with a group of citizens who wanted to meet Mary and who returned to the city with a  letter  in which he blessed the city  and its inhabitants with the words that the people of Messina find before their eyes every day:

“Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus”.

From that moment, Maria would become the protector of the city and there are many  stories about her appearances  in the most difficult moments in the history of Messina.

June 3 party

Every year, on June 3,  a silver statue of the Madonna is carried in procession  together with the hair that she would have used to wrap the letter to the city. In Messina on 3 June a goldsmith’s masterpiece from the 1600s (by Innocenzo Mangani) is exhibited: the  solid gold manta  that covers the  painting  of the  Madonna of the letter . Normally, during the rest of the year, the Byzantine-style framework is covered with a silver mantle. The golden manta is displayed only on the occasion of the Messina procession. It is an important occasion in which the Messina people rediscover their own traditions and cultivate their own religious sentiment. And it’s a party not to be missed!

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