- Ischia Events
RELIGIOUS AND NON-DENOMINATIONAL FEASTS
- Popular, religious and traditional feasts
Every year, with regular occurrence, Ischia renew its old traditions and popular feasts. Catholic feasts as well as farmers’ and fishermans’ festitivities alternate from the cold winter to the warm summer. The old, Catholic traditions have given the island of Ischia a ‘face-lift’ as they have contributed to its artistic and cultural heritage; there are now over 70 churches with saints that have been venerated for thousands of years in the Ischitan districts. Sant’ Anna,Sn Vito, San Giovan Giuseppe, Santa Restituta are just a few of the saints to whom districts (and on particular occasions, sometimes the entire island) dedicate festivities that last on average 3-5 days. Particularly suggestive are the religious rituals, the church and street decorations, the party spirit in the air and the particular happiness that is expressed by all participants as if to want to recall the ‘ancient value’ that was given to the actual feast day and not just to the ritual representation of the event. The fireworks are a true spectacle for those who appreciate such sights. There are yearly contests to award the municipality with the most beautiful fireworks; this revives the rivalry that has always existed between the various districts and municipalities of the island. The old traditions of the island of Ischia are strongly represented even on the main yearly feasts, Easter and Christmas. There are many displays of historical, cultural and religious nature represented in the six municipalities of the Island such as “Il mercato del pesce alla Vigilia di Natale” (the Fish Market on Christmas Eve), “La Corsa dell’Angelo” (the Run of the Angel), and “la via Crucis” at Easter.
- The feast of Sant’ Anna – July 26
The feast of Sant’ Anna dates back to a tradition of the last century. On July 26 of every year pregnant women used to go in a procession to venerate the image of the Mother of Mary that was in a chapel in the Bay of Cartaromana. They used to be accompanied by a procession of boats belonging to fishermen who would decorate their vessels with boughs and garlands of flowers for the occasion. Around the 1930s, a group of friends decided to establish that a prize be given to the most beautiful boat. Afterward, a carpenter joined this group. He would replace the boats with rafts made of surprising shapes and ornaments. It was in this way that the lively procession at sea began with allegorical, acquatic floats. Since then, the feast at the sea by the rocks of Sant’ Anna has a unique fascination with nothing like it in the world simply because it takes places in a setting that is worth experiencing forever. An exhorbitant number of spectactors flock to the reef and appear in boats to make sure that the feast does indeed maintain the fascination it has had throughout time and to be part of the atmosphere created by the lighting of the Castello and the fireworks.
- The Feast of San Giovan Giuseppe from September 4 to September 8
San Giovan Giuseppe was born in Ischia on August 15 in 1654 and was named Carlo Gaetano Calosirto. At only the age of 16 he was welcomed by the Franciscans in the convent of S. Lucia at the Monte di Napoli where he took his solemn profession on June 24 1671 and where he was ordained a priest on September 18 in 1677. After three years he asked to deprived of both a passive and active voice and to dedicate himself exclusively to the apostolate. In 1688 he returned to Ischia to assist his dying mother and later returned again to Ischia due to his weak health. He died in Naples on March 5 1734 in the convent of S. Lucia al Monte. On October 4 1779, in the Franciscan church of S. Maria d’ Aracoeli in Rome, Pope Pius VI proclaimed the heroicity of the virtues of Brother Giovan Giuseppe of the Cross. The same pope proclaimed him blessed in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on May 24 1789. On May 26 1839 Pope Gregory XVI canonized this saintly son of Ischia as a glory of the Church and as honor and pride of the Franciscan order. According to the ecclesiastical calendar, the saint is honored on March 5 while the festivities in the city streets of Ischia Ponte take place on the first Sunday of September for the duration of four days. During these feast days the church is decorated and mass is continually celebrated; the relic of the saint is carried in a procession through the city streets and over the sea where the boat with the relic is followed by those of fishermen. The festivities conclude with a firework event.
- The Feast of Sant’ Alessandro and the parade of the costumes of the past-August 28
The historic parade of Sant’ Alessandro originated as the initiative of a group of citizens who resided in the hamlet f Sant’ Alessandro. It is a representation, in rich traditional costumes, of the entire history of the island, from the Greek domination until the unification of Italy, as it demonstrates how Ischia was influenced by the style impressed by various conquerors (even foreign ones) that lived on the island. One departs at sunset from the grand port of the Castello Aragonese, accompanied by the flag wavers of a few districts invited for the event. As one continues along the main road that crosses the city center, one arrives at the port where there is the Quartiere di Sant’ Alessandro where one celebrates mass in the little church dedicated to Sant’ Alessandro. A feast is organized at the end of mass in the little hamlet; there is music and drinks and bruschette are served.
- The Feast of Santa Restituta – May 6 to May 18
The feast of Santa Restituta is a religious feast that takes place from the 16th – 18th of May. The city streets are adorned with illuminations and are filled with stalls of nuts, torroni, games and much more. For the young people an area is set with various rides that remain for one month. In the Bay of San Montano, on the first day of the festivities the 16th of May of every year there is a representation of the martyrdom and of the landing of the Saint in Lacco Ameno. According to a legend, on May 16 284 the young Restituta declared to adore God and refused to pronounce the name of Jupiter. As a result of this, she was put in prison. After another interrogation and a subsequent refusal to bow before the majesty of the gods, she was condemned to cruel flagellations, was placed in a boat filled with pitch and oakum and was left to drown in the abysses of the sea. As her sentence was being executed, something incredible occurred: the flames hurled themselves on the vessel of the executioners but not on the boat containing the body of Restituta. An angel of the Lord appeared and pushed the boat toward the bay of San Montano, on the island of Ischia.
Upon landing, the wooden statue of the saint which is adorned with many precious objects offered to her is carried in the procession from the bay to the church. On May 17 the saint is carried by sea by ferry; in leaves from the pier of Lacco Ameno and heads toward Punta Caruso where it turns and continues toward Casamicciola. Upon arrival, she is welcomed by a reveille of fireworks set off by the faithful admirers of the saint, priests, and participants from all over the island. In Piazza Marina the bishop addresses the faithful with a speech and gives a blessing with the relic of the saint. He then continues along in the procession in order to reach the basilica of Santa Restituta. On May 18 the saint is brought in a procession throughout the city streets. At midnight the sky is illuminated by rich fireworks that conclude the festivities for the saint. During the festive evenings the music of bands and singers echo in the square across the church; it is fantastic to walk in the evenue under the colorful illuminations and amongst the many people participating in the feast.
- La Madonna Addolorata (Our Lady of Sorrows) – March 1 – April 1
Our Lady of Sorrows was originally called The Virgin Mary of the Seven Pains, but Pope Pius X established in 1913 the liturgical feast day as The Virgin Mary of Sorrows on September 15. Our Lady of Sorrows has a heart pierced by seven spears because she suffered 7 great pains: the prophecy of the old Simon, the escape to Egypt, losing Jesus when he was 12 years of age, His trip to Golgota, the crucifixion, the deposition of the cross and the burial. The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows begins on the Thursday falling two weeks before Easter. In fact, at this time there is the solemn enthronement that initiates the novena. The Friday prior to Palm Sunday (or the sixth Friday of Lent) is the day of pain and sorrow because one remembers the pain suffered by Mary. From six in the morning onward one mass follows another. At 10,00 in the morning there is a solemn mass and at 11,00 there is the procession: the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is protected and is carried in the procession throughout the main streets of the town. During the afternoon of the same day the three hours of the desolate Mary takes place with sacred songs and moments of reflection of the seven pains. On the evening of Palm Sunday the traditional “kiss of the mantle” takes place (the people take turns getting close to the statue to kiss the mantle). On Holy Saturday, at the end of the Easter vigil, the image of Mary is crowned with flowers as the song “Regina Coeli” is sung (a Latin song that the people of Forio sing joyously on Easter during “The Race of the Angel”). The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows has a face chiseled in wood, its mantle is made of pure silk with gold embroidery, and it is representative of the Baroque style. Today there are three dresses of Our Lady of Sorrows, one of which is of old manufacture and was made immediately after the war (1953) thanks to the contribution of faithful of Our Lady. On the dress are embroidered the symbols of the passion of Christ (the cross, the thorns, the spear, etc.). Furthermore, in the hands of the statue are precious objects given by the faithful as an ex voto. It is said that the statue used to belong to a noble family of Forio and was donated to the Church. The author of the statue is unknown.
- The Race of the Angelo (Easter)
The Race of the Angel takes place in Forio and is the result of an old tradition dating back to the 1600s. It is a sacred represtentation that reproduced the moment of the encounter of the Madonna with her resurrected Son. The show is realized by the Archconfraternity of Forio, keeper of the four statues that are carried on shoulders in the procession. It is an unwritten tradition possed down from father to son that the sttues be carried by the same families. Many times heated disputes result amongst various families as they claim the right to their repeated part in the procession. The statues in the procession represent the Madonna, the Resurrected Christ, S. Giovanni the Apostle and the Angel. The first three were sculpted in wood by a craftsman from Naples between 1756 and 1757, whereas the Angel was sculpted by Vincenzo Mollica and is covered in pure gold. On Easter morning, before the procession, the Madonna with a white veil on her face and San Giovanni are placed on the crossroad of the main avenue of Forio. Christ and Angel join the procession at the end of mass and form a small procession with the blue banner, the plume of white ostrich feathers, the cross of the confraternity and the clergy. Once arrived close to the fountain, a chorus made up of strong fishermen’s voices and of that of the people looks towards the Resurrected Christ and sings “Regina Coeli”. It is in this fashion that the service begins. The Angel bows three times before the Resurrected Christ and runs toward the Madonna to announce the resurrection of her son. Once he has arrived at the crossroads the Regina Coeli is sung again by the farmers and people. At the end of the song the Angel bows there times before the Madonna and runs toward Christ. This is all repeated three times. During the last run the Angel stops under the church bell of Santa Maria di Loreto while the Madonna and San Giovanni walk down the avenue to reach the statue of Christ. Halfway down the route the veil of the Madonna is taken off to represent the vision she has of her Son; the entire avenue is filled with flower petals thrown from balconies in a rejoicing of songs and applause. According to tradition, whoever carries the banner in the procession must lower in three times without making its feathers touch the ground in oder to be able to carry the banner again in the following year’s procession. At the end, the statues are carried in procession up to the church of San Vito.
- Christmas Eve and the fish market – December 24
In the wintertime Ischia transfoms into a little manger, the days are characterized by the south-east wind, the west win or the north wind, the three main winds that condition the days of the islanders. The nuts, sweet figs dried under the warm summer sun, the roccoco’, a glass of newly-made white wine, a drop of nocino (walnut-flavoured liueur) or homemade limoncello, a game of cards in front of the crackling fireplace, the confusion drawn from the common tombola games, and much more are the elements that characterize a society that returns to its millenary values of cordiality, warmth and tradition. Day by day in the homes one remembers with little signs the great nativity feast. Christmas trees are decorated, moss is gathered from the woods for the manger. Houses and gardens are decorated with thousands of coloured lights, the pipers play old songs, and everyone becomes nicer. In the streets of the little hamlets one can smell a festive air, in the evenings people meet to chat, play and strum old songs on the piano of one of the few open bars. The great feast is near, and as it was for Leopardi as indicated in his poems, even for Christmas the most moving day is the day preceding it. As per tradition, Christmas begins the night of the 24th; the younger people stay up all night to play, sing, dance and tell jokes until one in the morning, the time when the town wakes up and finds itself suspended in time as it repeats the 100 year-old rites and traditions. The beautiful western Forio and the old Ischia Ponte to the east are already awake before dawn, the squares are filled in front of the crowded churches to celebrate the Christmas novena, and at dawn the fishermen sell the typical fish for Christmas Eve dinner: eel, moray, mollusks and valuable fish. It is a tradition in Forio that right after the procession one eats pasta and beans and bruscette prepared by many volunteers that cheer up tourists and town dwellrs. It is in this way that a joyous day begins, a day that will end in the evening after the dinner and tombola games with the midnight mass announcing the birth of Jesus and reminding makind of the road that was followed and has yet to be followed.
- The Feast of San Vito-from June 14 to June 16
San Vito is the patron saint of Forio. The festivities take place from June 14 to June 17. On June 14 mass is celebrated and in the evening, in San Vito’s square, there is the historic traditional representation of the sain’s life and of his bond with the municipality. The production is by Gaetano Mascolo. On June 15 mass is continuously celebrated. In the morning a music band goes around the city streets. In the afternoon the statue is carried in a procession though the streets of Forio and at the port there is a spectacle of fireworks. At about 22,00 there is a concert in the municipal square. In the afternoon on the 16th, the saint is carried in a procession by sea with the commemoration of the fallen and with the participation of the A.N.M.I. (Associazione Nazionale Mutilati e Invalidi—National Association of the Disabled) and of the society of fishermen “San Vito” of Forio. Upon the return there is a Eucharistic blessing and then in the mucipal square there is a new concert. On June 17 there is the celebration of mass and an encomium. The statue is then returned to its place. After the concert, the festivities end with a firework contest.
- The Feast of San Francesco di Paola – May 7
About 15 years ago the festivities in honour of San Francesco took place 15 days after Easter but it was often postponed due to bad weather conditions. It is for this reason that the decision was made to celebrate this day on the first Sunday in May. On Thursday evening, mass is celebrated with a foreign preacher for the triduum. On Friday, after the mass, a committee organizes a party fo the children with the showing of cinema animations. On the Saturday afternoon there is a music band that passes through the streets of the district—it leaves from via F. Calise, continues toward the belvedere of Gancia and then arrives in the courtyard of the church. Once the mass is over the concert begins. On Sunday, mass is celebrated for almost the entire day. In the afternoon after mass, the relic of the saint is brought in a procession up to the beach where one honours the fallen at sea, after which one then returns back for the entertainment provided by a music concert given by a music band. The day ends with fireworks. The statue of the saint is carried in a procession only in certain periods. The next time it will be carried in a procession is in 2007, in commemoration of 500 years since his death.
- The Feast of San Michele Arcangelo – September 29
The feast of San Michele Arcangelo takes place in Sant’ Angelo on September 29 of every year. The festivities begin with a triduum; during the morning of solemnity, after the celebration of mass, a band passes through the city streets in memory of the saint. At the end of mass, the statue of the saint is carried in a procession up to the square where it remains to be venerated by the faithful. In the afternoon, a procession by sea takes place, the embarkation taking place from the little port of the fishermen and then continues toward punta Chiarito and then toward the Maronti. The landing is “under the Torre”. From this point a little procession takes place up to the square where mass is celebrated with liturgical songs. During the evening there is a concert in the square. The festivities end with fireworks. With the help of several committees, in correlation with the feast of San Michele, the municipality organizes events in the square, such as the festival of the lampuga (a type of fish) which is offered for all who participate in the feast.
Island of Ischia
- The Feast of the Newly – Made Wine
When November arrives, the island of Ischia returns to its winter numbness. The islanders once again enjoy old traditional tastes, outing at sea to fish tunny and calamari, mountain hikes to pick mushrooms and chestnuts, the cultivation of vegetables and fruits, the preparation of the wine cellars to contain the fruit of an entire year’s worth of love and sacrifice for the land. When the wine is made, one can smell a festive air in the streets of Ischia, an air that isn’t spring-like—the summer has just ended—yet the feast is one that is maintained for thousands of years, it is feast that is tied to our origins, to our healthiest traditions. The feast of the newly-made wine occurs in every house, bar, and restaurant. Through the streets one can breathe the air of the little community tied to its values and to its traditions! Luckily Ischia is still just as warm and welcoming as it was for the illustrious visitors in the past. In the fresh winter days it reacquires the peace and cordiality of past days!