La Madonna del Mare [Our Lady of the Sea]
The Feast Day of Our Lady of the Sea [la Madonna del Mare] is celebrated yearly at Bova Marina during the first week of August. This is a religious recurrence which attracts devotees and arouses the curiosity of tourists who holiday on the beaches of Calabria’s Ionian Seashore every year.
On the promontory of San Giovanni d’Avola, overlooking Bova Marina, where the last descendants of the Marzano are buried, there is no church as such devoted to Our Lady of the Sea, but only a small chapel dedicated to San Giovanni d’Avola. The church which was actually dedicated to the Madonna of Porto Salvo and called Madonna del Mare [Our Lady of the Sea] stood near a cliff on the beach, at the foot of the promontory.
In 1677 a particularly violent sea-storm destroyed the fishing village of Capo San Giovanni, sweeping away the beach and everything around it. Only a fifteenth-century canvas of the Deposition, found by some fishermen, was saved. As this was considered a miracle, a temple to the Blessed Virgin of the Sea was built. Over the years, pilgrimages and celebrations in honour of the Virgin Mary were held during August. On the 14th of March 1964 Monsignor Sorrentino initiated a project whereby a bronze statue, 3.5 metres tall and weighing about 8 quintals [=800 kilos], should be placed on top of Capo San Giovanni. On the first page of the bishop’s register bishop he wrote “We heartily approve the initiative promoted by Dr. Michele Nesci for the erection of a statue of the Madonna of the Sea at Bova Marina and bless those who will contribute to its accomplishment with donations and pray for the maternal protection of Our Lady for those who will invoke her. Ave Maris Stella, iter para tutum“.
On the 30th April 2015 the 50th anniversary of the installation of Bova Marina’s bronze statue of the Madonna was celebrated on the beach at Capo San Giovanni d’Avalos. The statue was created by the sculptor Celestino Petrone and brought here in 1965 aboard a military helicopter, by the 31st Squadron of Pratica di Mare, Rome.
A solemn procession is held here during the first week of August and includes fireworks. The procession leaves the small new sanctuary, a place which popular devotion attributes to the Madonna, as a safe haven for all those who navigate the tumultuous seas of life.