The inhabitants of Pozzuoli are very devoted to the Marian worship, there is also a statue of the Virgin in the main square. The inhabitants are particularly devoted to the worship of Our Lady of the Assumption.
If you are in Pozzuoli on August 15th, you will live one of the most traditional and important celebrations for the life of the city, where fishermen are the protagonists. Unfortunately, even this year the celebration will not take place, but let’s find out together how it usually takes place.
Celebrating Our Lady of the Assumption with Pozzuoli’s fishermen
If you want to experience Pozzuoli as its people do, the celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption and attend the Soaped Pole competition (also called the “Pennone” competition). Thanks to Paolo Visone, in 2010 the shots of this celebration got to Houston on exhibition.
The celebration of the “Pennone” at sea takes place on the 15th of August in Pozzuoli in honour of Our Lady of the Assumption and it’s a very popular event among the citizens.
The masses of the Way of the Novena, a rite of recitation of the rosary, that begins on August 6th, is the period that precedes the Solemnity of the Our Lady of the Assumption and prepares the event.
The History of the celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption
In ancient times it was in the Galleon, a small body of water where fishermen’s boats are now moored. The previous day a fast was planned and only bread and melon were allowed.
On the occasion of the celebration, Pozzuoli’s citizens repainted their houses to present themselves to the Virgin in the best way. These two traditions were lost after the earthquakes of 1970, 1980 and 1983 that forced many inhabitants to leave their homes in order to live elsewhere.
The History of the Soaped Pole competition
The fishermen tell of a boat that was at the mercy of the waves during a swell. Things got very bad at a certain point for the boat: the mast of the boat broke and ended up on a cliff. The sailors were saved just walking on the yardarm, the famous “Pennone”, as they do during the competition with the help of Our Lady of the Assumption.
The celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption
The day begins with the 7 o’ clock Mass, which will be the first of uninterrupted masses until lunchtime.
In the early afternoon, before the competition, the fishermen go to pray in a seventeenth-century church, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption at Sea, dedicated to the purification of the Virgin Mary
In the church dating back to 1621 the participants are blessed by the parish priest who punctually recommends prudence to the participants but also to live the moment with joy.
The Soaped Pole competition
Today the competition is carried out at the Caligoliano Dock.
During the celebration the fishermen are challenged to retrieve flags placed on top of a wooden yardarm. The yardarm is the horizontal antenna on which the upper side of the square sails is inserted, and it is immersed in sea water the day before, to prepare it for the competition. The yardarm is made slippery with the help of soap and oil, placed on the dock and suspended on the sea diagonally: the game requires the fishermen balance and dexterity and the teams are very hardened. Each fisherman has his own technique to stay in balance and win the applause at the catch of the flag. The public watches the competition both from the dock and from the boats at sea.
The procession of Our Lady of the Assumption
After the competition, an outdoor mass is celebrated and, at the end of the communion, the statue is carried in procession, accompanied by the marching band.
The statue has the whole body made of straw and has the feet, hands and head made of terracotta and it recalls the style of the Neapolitan nativity statues.
The procession leaves from the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, goes through Via Castello, Via San Paolo, Piazza San Paolo and Largo Santa Maria delle Grazie, until it reaches the Church of St. Mark and then returns to the port to go back to the church.