Feast of Our Lady of the Letter
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,
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.
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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
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.
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.