The Holy Mary’s Procession is a deep-rooted symbol within the traditions of Termini Imerese. The citizens cherish an honest and sacral devotion to Holy Mary, which is clearly shown on people’s emotionally moved faces when Her Simulacra are brought through the streets in town. The Holy Mary’s worship in Termini Imerese can be dated back to the six-hundreds, to the 1623 actually, year in which in the left transept of the church Mother, a grandiose baroque altar made of stucco, wood and marble was erected, on which was placed the painting of the Immaculate Conception depicted with hands joined on the chest. In the following year, people affirmed their devotion to the Immaculate Conception with the realization of a plaque, still placed today on the main façade of the Cathedral as a witness to the constant citizens’ commitment to always defend the Immaculate Conception.
Nowadays, inside every church in town, there is at least an Holy Mary’s picture and it is revered by everyone; also three simulacra are conducted in procession on December 8 throughout the city. The first one is “Mary of the snow” (Madonna della Neve), which is brought during the morning processione. The second one is known as “The Big Mary” (in sicilian, “a Maronna Ranni”) which has the leading role in the day-time procession, and it is conducted from the Cathedral to the Carmelo’s Church, on the lower side of the city. The third and last simulacrum is part of the night procession and it is placed inside a chapel, set in the ancient boundary wall of the upper town.
“A Maronna Ranni” (“The Big Mary”) is the one simulacrum which the citizens are the most devoted to; the simulacrum is presented to the city with an enchanting and imposing beauty conferred by precious objects that, especially in the past, were placed on it as a sign of gratitude for the graces granted. The figure of the Perpetua was made of cypress wood in 1799 at the workshop of Filippo Quattrocchi in Palermo, commissioned by the monks of the Convent of San Francesco d’Assisi; in 1888 the painter Giuseppe Culotta completely renewed the color. In 1995, due to the condition of the simulacrum and the fercolo, it was decided to carry out a restoration that lasted about ten months.
There are many miracles that bind the simulacrum of the “Maronna Ranni” to the citizens of Termini, but the most relevant ones that have been handed down to today are two: the first one dates back to more than two hundred years ago, while the second one to the last decades of the last century.
The first miracle remarkably marked the work of the sculptor Quattrocchi, of which there are two versions: the first legend tells that the artist, after having finished the body, did not succeed in realizing a face that could possibly be of equal beauty, this made him spend sleepless nights, and just in one of those nights appeared to him in sleep the Holy Mary’s sweet face and the next day, he was able to replicate it and finally finish the work. The second version tells instead that the artist, after a day of work dedicated entirely to the realization of the body, went to rest, but during the night a lightning struck the wood on which he had worked hard. Waking up to the hustle and bustle, the sculptor went to check and before his shocked look he found out, miraculously,that the Holy Mary’s face had been realized.
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The second miracle, however, has as its protagonist a mother who, in despair, knelt before the chapel of “Maronna Ranni” begging her to perform a miracle in order to help her find the money needed to go to America and succeed in carrying out the operation that could have saved her seriously ill son’s life. Just ten days later the woman received a message from the USA: someone would have paid for her son’s healthcares and for the flight. Happy and full of joy, the woman went to church to thank Mary and told the news to the preacher.
Today the citizens of Termini Imerese keeps on cherish and protect the Holy Mary’s figure, asking for her help when in need; to thank her and confirm their devotion, every year during the procession on 8th December, this prayer written in the early ‘900s by the priest Tommaso Giunta (1882-1976), is told:
Virgini bedda, Matri Mmaculata
l’ultima ura di ‘sta vita amara
io vogghiu chi vi fussi cunsacrata,
pignu di fidi e di spiranza cara.
Vui siti la patruna e l’avvucata
senza difettu e senza nudda tara,
salva st’armuzza afflitta e scunsulata,
dammi pirdunu cu sintenza chiara.
Salva l’umanità, salvaci tutti,
lu poviru cunsola e l’ignuranti
e di l’amuri tuo dacci li frutti.
Dintra lu celu, ‘nsemmula a li santi
vinti e dispersi li terreni flutti,
Evviva! canteremu tutti quanti.