The 'Madonna che scappa'
A unusual event celebrating the Resurrection on Easter Sunday
We are in Sulmona at 11 am on Easter Sunday, when the procession leaves the Church of St Mary of the Tomb, led by the green standard of the S. Maria di Loreto Confraternity, followed by the brothers with the candles and finally the statues of Christ Resurrected, St. Peter and St. John.
The procession goes as far as Piazza Garibaldi, where it splits up: Christ stops at the entrance to the square under the arch of the Svevo Aqueduct, the standard goes to the end of the square and the statues of the two saints go to the Church of St. Philipp, where the Madonna is dressed in mourning.
They are bringing her the news of her son’s resurrection, but only when she hears it for the third time does she believe John’s words. The Church door then opens and the Madonna follows the two saints towards the centre of the square, and when they reach the fountain she recognises her resurrected son in the distance. Her black cloak and veil are immediately thrown off, and the Madonna appears in a beautiful green gown adorned with gold embroidery, while 12 doves lift up in flight around her.
It is 12 o’clock and the Madonna begins running towards her son, surrounded by mortar shots, the clapping crowd and the music of the band, and when they meet the bearers all explode with joy.
Thus the “Running Madonna” ends, a very ancient tradition but which the entire population still takes part in, especially the Confraternity which has always organised the event, and, together with the D’Erasmo family, who have the honour of dressing the Madonna, is the keeper of the secret of the mechanism of wires that releases the black veil just before she starts running, a truly exceptional coup de theatre.