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August 22nd was the last day of the festival and it was the most intense day. In the village, the plains and the valleys were crowded with pilgrims. In the villages, they were everywhere: in the squares, in the streets under the arcades. Everywhere there was space, there were people. Early in the morning, other groups and processions came down from Canneto, singing hymns accompanied by an accordion. They had come back from Canneto to await the return of the Madonna to Settefrati. It was and it still is moving to see with how much faith people follow the Madonna. It was the culminating day of rituals and the air was full of excitement. Relatives and friends came from far away for the occasion. The band played to the huge crowd, but very few people listened to it. The multitude of people moved and pushed and the murmur of the was turning into a roar.

 From plains and valleys, from villages and towns from a multitude of countries, the faithful kept coming.

Our house would have been filled with people that came to see the evocative nocturnal procession from our terrace while it was winding its way down from Canneto to bring the Holy Virgin to Settefrati where it would remain until next year, when the ritual would be reenacted. I went for a last visit to the stands and went to the stand that sold “American” nuts. Who could have known that one day we would be eating those nuts in their home country.

 At sunset, a loud bang announced that the procession with the Madonna had arrived at “La Rocca” and was about to start the descent towards the village. At that sound, a murmur rose from the crowd and everybody turned towards the return path. Certain boys had the job of ringing the bells and they rang the bells continuously. The unique, majestic sound seemed to gather all hearts and join them together in one embrace of faith. The emotion had taken the place of the loud voices and sounds. Then, the roll of the drums was a signal for the band members to gather at the Guadoncello where they had to wait for the Madonna. We, the girls of the Azione Cattolica, were already in line with the flags and the banner, and walked towards them too to meet with the procession. I remember that we were all properly dressed with veils on our heads. The veil that was always worn by women during religious ceremonies has not been used for many years now. All the terraces and balconies of the town were crowded with people armed with cameras and video cameras to immortalize the scene and show it to their relatives who were far away. Now the statue of the Madonna was starting to appear from around the bend in the mountain road followed by numerous faithful with torches and candles. The nocturnal image evoked deep emotions and suffused the souls of all the participants. The “hunchback” gave his best with his fireworks display . The dark sky was shining with little colored stars that opened up like umbrellas, popped and then disappeared.

 The procession stopped at the church of the Madonna delle Grazie for a short time. A little after that, the arches of the churchyard lit up with a dim light and inside this light, the Madonna appeared as if she were behind a veil. The color of the light changed. Then a cascade of lights from the tip of the arches fell to the ground as bright golden filigrees. At the end, the statue of the Madonna appeared under a huge sign reading WW Maria.This is when the people started shouting “Evviva Maria” and held out their hands to the Virgin praying and asking for grace. The emotion that this event evoked in us filled up the souls of all the participants: particular feelings that only the devout people from Settefrati can understand. Then spectacular and artistic fireworks announced the last part of the nocturnal procession and this was another very emotional moment. The show produced by fireworks was always enchanting and it inspired awe in everyone. Moving down the hill from which the fireworks were launched, they looked much more intense and much more beautiful.

People were clapping their hands. The band played religious music while the procession was approaching the main church. Once they arrived at the steps of the church, the people who were carrying the statue stopped and then turned the statue to face the rest of the public. The fireworks and the rockets lit up the sky for one last salute to the Virgin and to the people. The Virgin of Canneto re-entered the church always facing her devout followers. The festival that had been celebrated so majestically was now over.

The band played the last of the arias. The people in the crowd, which was now much less dense, were now going back to their villages as the noise and the whispers of voices grew less and less intense. It was the time of “ Va Pensiero” the last piece played by the band. Even the musicians were now walking towards the buses that were going to take them home. All this was interrupted by a last shout from the vendor at the nut stand. After this, since no one was going to the stand, even this vendor packed up all his stuff. The people from the village were going to their houses too; they closed windows and balconies, locked the doors and shut the lights off one by one. The lighting in the town was turned off one section at a time. Little by little, normal darkness came back to the village. Even the lamps in the square were now turned off. There were just a few people who had taken a little more time and now, with quick steps, were walking towards their houses. 

Everything was now quiet; everything was now dark. Settefrati was finally sleeping peacefully.


Delia Socci Skidmore