Confraternities and Popular Piety: The Madonna of Quintiliolo

2013-05-05 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Sunday marks another special day in the context of this Year of Faith, dedicated to Confraternities and Popular Piety.

An event which began on the 3rd of May and which has as theme: “Through the streets of the world, testimonies of faith: the Confraternities on pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Peter for the New Evangelisation”. A visit this to the tomb of Saint Peter which physically took place early Saturday morning.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the 'Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation' said at a recent press conference that the highlight of this event will take place, in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday 5th of May. One he said over 50,000 faithful were expected to attend.

On this occasion Archbishop Fisichella also told the journalists present how: "It would be a moment of faith that finds, in the simplicity of the expressions of popular piety, its most deep-rooted core in our people who live these signs uninterruptedly as a reminder of the faith of previous generations and as a tradition that should be witnessed to with courage and enthusiasm,"

These Confraternities offer a lively witness to a variety of age old local traditions of religiosity.

Among those present on Sunday are groups from Italy, France, Ireland, Malta,Spain and Poland.

From the Rome area there's one Confraternity that has been invited to bring with it a 13th century artistic masterpiece representing the Madonna and child so it may have pride of place to the right of the altar.

Painted on a wooden surface it's known as ‘Our Lady of Abundance’ with reference to the protection of crops, but it's called more simply ‘ Madonna di Quintiliolo’.

The word ‘Quintiliolo’ refers to a shrine which takes its name from the land once owned by a Roman Consul by the name of ‘Quintilius Varus’ on whose property the icon was unearthed. Possibly hidden away underground to safeguard it from destruction by the so called Barbarians.

The story goes that a peasant by the name of Isidore was ploughing the land with his oxen one day, when the animals suddenly refused to budge. Peering down at the earth in front of them Isidore noticed there lay there an icon of our Lady which had been unearthed by earlier ploughing.

Transferred to the nearby Church currently attached to a Capuchin monastery it remained there until the XVI century.

However today both Isidore since canonised and the oxen are still in the picture. Isidore is the Patron Saint of the local Confraternity. And the oxen? Well they are represented by the ‘buttari’ men who herd them in the hills above this shrine nestling at the foot of the hills roughly 30 kilometres inland East of Rome.

Among those who make up this Confraternity are these ‘buttari ’ and the highpoint of their devotion to the icon representing Our Lady has its age old expression in a procession which takes place at the beginning of the Marian month of May.

On the first Sunday in May in fact this ancient painting is set in a gilt baroque frame, with Our Lady dressed for the occasion, as popular piety often dictates in an embroidered mantle, is carried a roughly three kilometre distance from this country shrine of Quintiliolo, where it is normally housed, to the nearby town of Tivoli which lies on the opposite side of a deep valley .

Borne in a procession led by the Capuchin friars from the shrine, it is followed by the local ‘buttari’ who don the characteristic blue aprons of the Confraternity, the sturdier of whom carry this icon on a heavy cedar wood platform.

A procession which winds slowly along clinging to the hillside road, to the sound of prayer and song making a couple of devotional stops along the way. The first by a tiny Marian roadside shrine at the top of a steep hill. The second by a little ilex shaded terrace overlooking the cascading waterfalls on the other side of the valley, where a little private chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony and attached to a former convent is hidden away. And the third at the outskirts of Tivoli, by an impressive marble triumphal arch topped by carved winged angels dating back to the early 20th century.

At this point welcomed into town by the local Bishop and town authorities and by a volley of fireworks it’s handed over from the Capuchin friars to the parish priest of Tivoli’s Cathedral. and is placed on an elaborate throne. Then with a more majestic take it makes its way across town to its temporary resting place down to the medieval neighbourhood of town with its Cathedral or ‘Duomo’ , dedicated to Saint Lawrence built over what remains of an XI century Church.

There this Madonna and child rests until the first Sunday in August, when it makes its return back home to its country shrine of Quintiliolo until the following year.

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