We The Italians | Italian traditions: Feast of Our Lady of the Sterpeto and St. Ruggero

Italian traditions: Feast of Our Lady of the Sterpeto and St. Ruggero

Italian traditions: Feast of Our Lady of the Sterpeto and St. Ruggero

  • WTI Magazine #153 Jul 24, 2022
  • 316

The feast of Our Lady of the Sterpeto and St. Ruggero, after a two-year pandemic, returns to Barletta, Apulia. A millennial feast that fideistically the city's faithful repeat every year in July with heartfelt participation.

The importance that the patronal feast in honor of its patron saints has always had has contributed to the solidarity of human relationships. People meet and gather after the religious rites followed attentively and devoutly by all citizens to experience moments of deep humanity, provoked by the deep religiosity of the event.

The patronal feast in Barletta is also much loved by children and young people, for the long nights experienced outdoors to watch the beautiful fireworks, for the rides among the merry-go-rounds, for the stalls of games and toys, while the soul of Frederick the Second, the medieval emperor of Sicily who also made Apulia a magical and sacred place, a stupor mundi, pausing on one of the ramparts of Frederick's castle, still watches intently for all that happens around and in its gardens.

IN the meantime, young people light bonfires on the sand while a guitar plays the vibrations of a nocturnal melancholy that opens the heart to blossoming youth and the beauty of hearts, with a tension soothed by night songs.

Simple and profound atmospheres are created by the feast of Our Lady of the Sterpeto, which with a solemn procession arrives at the church of St. Ruggero, the town's patron saint.

For most of the town, Our Lady's arrival is an indescribable thrill, like waiting at home for the mother you haven't seen for a year. The women hug her and say, "Mother I love you." While the women cry for the arrival of Our Lady, the men carry St. Ruggeror on their shoulders during the procession.

The figure of the "bearer" becomes a family tradition. When the saint passes through town in the faces of the Barletta people and in their eyes it is clear that they ask for help as one would ask for it from a father: the “illustrious shepherd”, as they call him in a popular song in Barletta. Carrying the bust of St. Ruggero on our shoulders means carrying Barletta...it means carrying the one who has done so much for our city through his intercession over the years.

Venerated and loved by all Barletta residents, Our Lady of the Sterpeto, patron saint of Barletta, is depicted on a very old icon, about whose discovery there are several historical hypotheses. The painting on wood features five different pieces, with painting done in tempera. Most likely, the sacred icon was brought to the city during the iconoclastic persecution of the 8th century, an action by which the veneration of sacred images in the East was intended to be eliminated. A hypothesis that explains the presence of several Byzantine-style icons in Italy and especially in the area of ancient Magna Graecia. In particular, this hypothesis refers to Apulia, as it was in this region that monks persecuted in the East apparently found refuge, as they were supporters precisely of the cult towards sacred images.