Regardless of your beliefs, don’t miss out on the celebrations in the stunning seaside town of Caorle. All of the locals play an active part and it is a great way to get to know their customs and traditions. It is one of the most popular events in Caorle, along with the “Fire in the Bell Tower” and the “Luna nel Pozzo” street theatre festival.
Our Lady of the Angels is known here as the Madonna dell’Angelo and she is thought to protect fishermen. A statue of her is praised during an annual procession through the town. Once every five years, the parade takes an even more spectacular form as the statue sails from the fishing harbour along the canal that runs through the town. It then travels by sea back to its home in the little church by “Sacheta” beach, with a fleet of boats following it. The festival traditionally takes place on the second Sunday in September, which is 13 September this year. However, there is always a festive atmosphere in the air for a whole week beforehand, as all of the preparations get underway.
Experience the traditions
The local people are extremely enthusiastic about the Our Lady of the Angels festival on the water and it is a great opportunity to witness a significant occasion full of sounds and colours out on the waves. During most of the many processions in Italy, a statue of a Saint is carried by worshippers on foot. In this case, part of the proceedings take place in traditional boats such as “caorline”, “bragozzi” and “sandoli”, the majority of which are propelled by oars.
White and sky blue hues adorn the sea
During the festival, the town centre is decorated with flags in the colours of Our Lady of the Angels: white and sky blue. The most spellbinding sight of all, though, is the procession on the water. A traditional “caorlina” boat takes the statue of the Madonna from the fishing harbour to the sea and then back to the sanctuary that is dedicated to her. The sea off Caorle beach fills up with colourful boats that are decorated for the occasion. Spectators on foot watch from the shore, pray and sing songs such as the famous “Madonna del Mare”, which is also the town’s anthem.
Every year, the celebrations start around a week before the procession. The statue of the Madonna is taken on a tour of the local parishes, including resorts such as Porto Santa Margherita, San Giorgio and Brussa. Among the colourful houses lining the streets of Caorle, the air is filled with the fragrant smells of delicious dishes in the local restaurants and trattorias. You can also savour the delectable fried seafood for which the town is famous.
A look back in time
The procession has very old roots. Legend has it that in the 13th century, some fishermen went out fishing in the sea at night and were attracted by a very bright light. They approached it and saw the wooden statue of the Madonna. It was floating, even though it stood on a very substantial marble base. They towed it to the beach, but they were unable to take it into town because it was too heavy. The following day, the bishop had the statue taken to the cathedral with the help of all of the local children, but it disappeared overnight. It was found back on the beach the following morning, in the very same spot where the fishermen had previously left it. Therefore, the people decided to build a sanctuary around it and it is still kept there today.
Until around 40 years ago, the festival only took place once every 25 years. Cardinal Urbani decided that this should be increased to once every five years because it is such a beautiful ceremony in which numerous worshippers participate devotedly.
There have only been two occasions in living memory when it has not been possible to take the statue out to sea safely: once in the 1970s, and during the most recent festival in 2015, when the procession reached the mouth of the Livenza River but was then forced to turn around in a hurry because the sea was too rough. The Madonna was taken back along the inland canal to the town centre, where the celebrations continued.
What will the festivities be like this year? There’s only one way to find out: come and see us in Caorle so that we can tell you all about the plans for the Our Lady of the Angels festival!