Friday, August 13, 2021

Bergamo Santa Caterina – Festa dell'Apparizione


Composite image of street lights celebrating the Festa dell'Apparizione in Borgo Santa Caterina, Bergamo.

Santa Caterina is a charming borgo (district) of Bergamo, centered around the street of the same name, Via Santa Caterina. The street is characterized by small local shops. There are few chain stores like you find in the center of Bergamo on the Sentierone. Santa Caterina is a good place to take a walk and explore a working neighborhood of Bergamo.

In early August, Santa Caterina goes through a transformation as it gets ready for the important Festa dell'Apparizione, centered around the church Santuario della Beata Vergine Addolorata. The street is dressed up in lights with religious celebratory phrases expressing Marian devotion (la devozione mariana). At night, the lights make for a striking backdrop, if not a lesson in Latin phrases.

The Festa dell'Apparizione (in English, the Festival of the Apparition) has it roots in the miraculous event of August 18, 1602 when – hold on to your hats – a star appeared in the midday sky and did something interesting. That star shined three rays of light on a deteriorated fresco, Our Lady of Sorrows (Madonna Addolorata), and brought the fresco back to its original splendor. This event was observed by a large crowd, so there were witnesses.

The star-restoring-fresco event inspired the building of the church Santuario della Beata Vergine Addolorata, which was finished in 1605 in Santa Caterina. The fresco – originally elsewhere in Bergamo not far from Santa Caterina – was brought to the finished church and there it has been ever since. A wooden structure replicating the fresco's depiction of Mary and Jesus was created in 1606 and it is this structure which is carried through the streets during the festival.

Some resources:
  • This YouTube video shows images of the festival, the wooden structure carried through the street, and just how important this festival is locally.
  • The site Bergamo da Scoprire has a good write up (in Italian) with photos of the fresco as it appears on the main altar of the church today.
  • Google Maps has some good photos both internal and external of the sanctuary.

In a typical year (not this one or the past one during the pandemic), there would be fireworks during the celebration and a festival in the street, la Cena lungo il Borgo d'Oro. (See this picture in this Eco di Bergamo article.) 

The lights hanging above the street and shown in these photos are referred to as luminarie lauretane. Luminaria (plural with E) is lighting. Lauretano (feminine plural with E) refers to someone from Loreto (Marche).  Loreto is famous as the home of the Basilica of the Holy House, an important and ancient places of Marian pilgrimage. Via Lauretana is an ancient (Marian) pilgrimage route connecting Rome to the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto. There is a chapel in Santuario della Beata Vergine Addolorata dedicated to the Madonna di Loreto. From Loreto to Bergamo.

Here are the messages spelled out in street signs (with our translation):

Mater Inviolata – Mother Inviolate
Mater Intemerata – Mother Undefiled
Mater Amabilis – Mother Most Lovable
Mater Admirabilis – Mother Most Admirable
Mater Creatoris – Mother of our Creator
Mater Salvatoris – Mother of the Savior
Mater Castissima – Mother Most Chaste
Mater Purissima – Mother Most Pur
Mater Divinae Gratiae – Mother of Divine Grace (related: Mary, Mother of Grace)
Mater EcclesiaeMother of the Church
Mater Boni Consili – Mother of Good Counsel (Our Lady of Good Counsel)
Mater Christi – Mother of Christ
Virgo Prudentissima – Virgin Most Wise
Virgo Veneranda – Virgin Most Venerable


Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Admirabilis
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Amabilis
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Boni Consigli
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Castimssima
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Christi
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Creatoris
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Divinae Gratiae
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Divinae Gratiae
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Ecclesiae
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Intemerata
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Inviolata
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Inviolata
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Purissima
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Mater Salvatoris
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Virgo Prudentissima
Santa Caterina Bergamo - Festa dell'Apparizione - Virgo Veneranda

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