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Feast of Our Lady of the Letter

 According to the tradition of S.an Paolo, arrived in Messina to preach the Gospel, converted many citizens and when in the 42, St. Paul was preparing to return to Palestine, some of Messina asked to accompany him in order to get to know the Madonna in person. So a delegation of Messina went to Palestine with a letter, in which the many fellow citizens converted to the faith of Christ professed their faith and asked for Mary's protection.

Maria, in response to the letter, sent back one of hers letter, written in Jewish, rolled up and tied with a lock of her hair now kept at the Cathedral of Messina and exhibited on the day of Corpus Christi set in the mast of a small galleon built in silver, which represents one of the examples of the protection of the Madonna for Messina.

The cult of the Madonna della Letter was established only in 1716, the year in which the monk Gregorio Arena brought to Messina a translation from the Arabic of the letter of Mary. Since then the city of Messina has celebrated the festival on 3nd June, with a crowded procession of the silver fercolo of the Madonna. The text of the letter delivered to the Messina delegation reads:

"Most humble servant of God,
Mother of Jesus crucified,
of the tribe of Judah,
of the lineage of David,
health to all the people of Messina
and Blessing of God the Father Almighty.
It is a public instrument that you all have great faith
you have sent Legates and Ambassadors to us,
confessing that Our Son,
generated by God both God and man
and who after his resurrection ascended to heaven:
having known the way of truth
through the preaching of Paul the chosen apostle
for which we bless you and your city
of which we want to be perpetual protector.

Da Jerusalem June 3, year 42 of Our Son. Indiction 1 moon XXVII "

The phrase Vos et ipsam Civitatem benedicimus ("We bless you and your city") is now written in large letters at the base of the stele of the Madonnina on the far arm of the port of Messina.

It should be noted that the date indicated in the text of the letter is incongruent, since at that time there was no Christian dating.

Source: wikipedia

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Technical sheet prepared by: Region of Sicily - Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity - CRicd: Regional Center for the inventory, cataloging and documentation and Sicilian regional film library

N. Prog. 117
Well: Feast of Our Lady of the Letter
Book: REI - Book of celebrations
Approval date: 19-05-2008
Category: Patronal feast
Province: Messina
Municipality: Messina
Chronological News
The episode, handed down by tradition and faith, linked to the feast of Our Lady of the Letter, dates back to 42 AD, the year in which a group of Messina, representing the entire city, converted to Christianity thanks to the preaching of St. Paul, went to the Holy Land to pay homage to the mother of Christ, still alive. Here, welcomed by the Madonna on June 3, they receive a letter in which she assures her protection to the city forever. On 8 September of the same year, the people of Messina return to their homeland.
The cult of the Messina of the Madonna della Letter developed in the sixteenth century, the date set for the feast was initially 8 September, in memory of the return of the embassy.
On July 30, 1636, an act of the Senate of Messina officially fixes the date of the feast as June 3, thus referring to the date on which the visit to the Madonna took place.
In 1716, when the Basilian Gregorio Arena brought to Messina the translation of the alleged letter written by the Madonna (translation from an Arabic code, which belonged to the bishop of Mardin and, in turn had by the patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius), the Madonna of the Letter was elected officially Patroness of the city and since then the feast of June 3 has become more solemn.
Recurrence: Annual
Date: June 3
Function: Devotional
Actors: The confraternities of the diocese of Messina in their traditional clothes parade composed in two rows on the sides of the procession.
Participants: Local community, tourists
Every year, on June 3, the city of Messina remembers the delivery of the Sacred Letter to the delegation of Messinesi visiting the Madonna, renewing the devotion to their Patroness. The reliquary containing the hair with which the Madonna (according to tradition) tied the Sacred Letter and a silver statuette placed on a vara, also in silver, is carried in procession. The procession winds for a distance of about 3 km through the streets of the city, preceded by all the brotherhoods of the diocese, in traditional dress arranged in two rows.
During the week before the festival, every day at 13:00, the bells of the city ring to remind citizens of the time of return home of the embassy to the Madonna.
On the occasion of the feast, the painting placed on the main altar of the cathedral, depicting the Madonna and Child, is covered with the so-called Golden Manta, replacing the silver one that covers the painting daily. The Manta is the chiseled gold reproduction of the robes of the Madonna and Child.
Messina: Department of public education. 1992. Parties, fairs, markets. Sd Messina: EDAS.
The small processional vara is made of chiseled silver and its manufacture dates back to 1626. On it, probably, before only the reliquary containing the Sacred Hair of the Madonna was placed, today there is also a silver statuette, only 90 cm high, made by the devoted Nunzio Magliani in 1902.
The reliquary today carried in procession is the only existing example in Sicily of a rock crystal lamp with alternating Doric and Ionic grooves. It is pyramidal in shape with a round base in gilded silver with small leaves, surmounted by a late era gilt bronze cross. By an unknown author, the reliquary (lamp) dates back to the XNUMXth, XNUMXth or perhaps XNUMXth century.
(Card OA: 1900058782 - Reliquary (Lamp) - Author of the card: C. Ciolino)
The painting depicting the Madonna with Child placed on the high altar of the cathedral of Messina is an oil on panel, a 1254th century reproduction, by Adolfo Romano, of the original which was lost in the fire of 3. The Madonna is represented in half-length, on a golden background, with the blessing Child on his arms. Every day it is covered with a silver mantle, replaced with the rich gold manta only on June XNUMX, on the occasion of the feast.
(Card OA: 1900058612 - Painting depicting the Madonna with Child - Author of the card: C. Ciolino)
The Golden Manta (160 x 98 cm) outlines the garments of the Madonna and Child with a refined workmanship in gold chisel that reproduces the folds and rich seventeenth-century fabrics, such as damask and brocade. The work dates back to the 1661th century: as can be read in the inscription on it, it was begun in 1668 and finished in XNUMX by «Innocenzo Mangani, silversmith, sculptor and Florentine architect». Over time it has been further embellished with jewels, stones and enamels, donated by nobles and archbishops as a sign of devotion to the Madonna della Lettera. It is kept in the treasure room of the cathedral dedicated to the Madonna Assunta.
(Card OA: 1900058765 - Manta - Author of the card: C. Ciolino)
The Sacred Letter: the historical truth of the letter written by Our Lady to the Messinesi, over time has been denied and then confirmed. Surely the original of the letter no longer exists; over time it seems to have been lost, but traces of it remain in some historical documents, in the iconography linked to the episode of the encounter with the Madonna, as well as in tradition. The letter was written in Hebrew or Antiochian Arabic, with Syriac characters, later translated into Greek and then into Latin by Costantino Lascari. Messina certainly remembers this event and above all the protection promised by Our Lady on many occasions. To cite a few examples: the statue placed at the entrance to the port depicts the Madonna with one arm raised in the act of blessing the city while in the other hand she holds the letter. At the foot of the statue are the words that closed the Sacred Letter: Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus. While among the scenes that at 12:00 every day animate the clock of the Duomo, there is one that depicts the embassy to the Madonna.
Author Profile: Mariangela Riggio
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