Published on Monday, 22 July 2013 13:56
With temperatures in the capital nudging past a sweltering + 28ºC, the annual Italian Procession of the Madonna of Mount Carmel took place on the afternoon of Sunday 21st July 2013 in Clerkenwell, Central London.
This Roman Catholic procession is traditionally held on the Sunday immediately following the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (i.e. 16th July annually) – the day after St. Swithin’s Day!
And with over 5,000 participants, it is the largest evangelising, public, walk-of-faith held in either Britain or Ireland, and arguably is also one of the largest religious processions in the whole of Europe. Moreover, this year’s colourful procession was the 128th departing from the internally stunning Italian church of St. Peter’s – which coincidentally also celebrates the 150th anniversary of its opening in April 1863.
Starting from directly outside St. Peter’s Church, the procession, as usual, slowly wended its way along a 2½ mile triangular route. The first part of the route was due west along the Clerkenwell Road before eventually turning right and heading north-east onto Rosebery Avenue. Then, once directly outside the huge Mount Pleasant Royal Mail Sorting Office at the junction of Rosebery Avenue and Farringdon Road, the procession again turned right in order to travel down Farringdon Road. And, finally, where the long Farringdon Road eventually intersects the Clerkenwell Road, the procession once more turned right and returned to St. Peter’s Church.
In addition to the florally adorned statue of La Madonna del Monte Carmelo the Catholic gospel-proclaiming procession comprised many mechanised floats with various religious tableaus depicting Biblical scenes. These included The Crucifixion, The Resurrection, and The Ascension. And, of course, many angels were in attendance, along with Moses, Elijah, St. Michael the Archangel, John the Baptist, and St. Peter (who was assiduously mending his fishing nets) also featured.
Also making an appearance were the evangelists Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. St. Anthony of Padua, St. Giovanni “Francesco” (i.e. “Little Frenchman”) Bernadone d’Assisi, blonde-haired St. Chiara (i.e. St. Clare) Scifi d’Assisi, early Christian martyr Santa Lucia, and St. Rita da Cascia (N.B. the patron saint for lost and impossible causes, and who had a splinter from The Cross inserted in her forehead) were there too, alongside La Madonna del Rosario, the Roman centurion St. Longinus who pierced Christ’s side with a spear, and a large donated portrait of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa by the Polish contingent.
As well as several members of the Italian Alpine Brigade, Roman soldiers in regalia, vested clergy, and newly Confirmed and Holy Communicant children, the rich and colourful procession also comprised several Italian ladies in their national dress. The occasion was also nicely augmented by the presence of some excellent musicians.
Following the procession’s return to St. Peter’s Church, there was Benediction closely followed soon afterwards by a packed Mass held inside the church’s magnificent Italianate surroundings. Parish priest Fr. Carmelo di Giovanni (who was celebrating 43 years of service at St. Peter’s) officiated, and he was ably assisted by Canon Daniel Cronin of the Westminster Diocese, and local Carmelite priest Fr. Aidan Sharratt.
After this a traditional Italian street fête got under way outside in the nearby area.
Most of the forbears of the Italians walking in this year’s procession arrived in Britain during the mid 19th Century, as a result of all the turmoil, wars, and uncertainties, which engulfed and plagued their homeland – courtesy of the Austrians, French, and also the roving Italian “unification” freemasons led by Garibaldi. Indeed, the latter saw his chance and ceased overall control in Italy within hours of the commencement (i.e. elsewhere) of the Franco-Prussian war and the Siege of Paris (by the Germans) in September 1870. As this began, Garibaldi and his cronies simultaneously seized power in Rome, and also killed approximately 19 Swiss Guards loyal to Pope Pius IX when they laid siege (including via cannon fire) to La Città del Vaticano itself.
Most of the grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, of today’s Italian diaspora arrived in the first instance at Clerkenwell, Central London, before possibly moving on to other cities (e.g. Manchester, to work in the cotton mills there). And being a naturally industrious people, many of their descendants gradually set up businesses of their own in barbering, ice-cream, pizzas, and Italian coffee shops.
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