Feast of the Assumption and Madonnari

Feast of the Assumption

In 1425, Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, declared the space in front of the church of the Grazie a place for a free market of goods. Since then, the Fiera delle Grazie has been held every Ferragosto (mid-August) with stalls, merry-go-rounds, fireworks displays and the typical Mantuan cotechino (pork sausage) event.

The National Meeting of Madonnari, now an integral part of the Mantuan tradition, has been held every year on 15 August since 1973 and is the setting for the Fiera delle Grazie and the Festa dell'Assunta.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated together with Ferragosto: a more secular tradition that derives from the Latin feriae Augusti (Augustus' rest), a holiday instituted by the emperor of the same name in 18 B.C. that was added to the already existing, and very ancient, festivities falling in the same month and celebrating the harvest and the end of the main agricultural work. The purpose of the festival was to encourage proper rest and village unity, necessary after the hard weeks of work in the fields.

Where does the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin come from?

The Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary celebrates the ascension in body and soul to heavenly glory of the mother of Jesus Christ, preserved from the stain of sin and an example to all mortal men.

It was Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, during the Holy Year, who proclaimed the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven as a dogma of faith for the Catholic Church with the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus:

"Therefore, after having again raised to God supplicating petitions, and having invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, to the glory of Almighty God, who has poured out his special benevolence upon the Virgin Mary to the honour of his Son, the immortal King of the ages and victor over sin and death to the greater glory of his august Mother and to the joy and exultation of the whole Church, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and Ours, we pronounce, declare, and define to be dogma revealed by God that the immaculate Mother of God ever virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed into heavenly glory in body and soul. Therefore, if any person, God forbid, should dare to deny or wilfully cast doubt on what has been defined by Us, let him know that he has failed in his divine and catholic faith."

The Madonnari

The Fair can also be described as a huge open-air artistic workshop because, in addition to the various stalls, from the night of 14 August, dozens of artists from all over the world gather in the large square of the Sanctuary to draw sacred images dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the asphalt.

The National Meeting of Madonnari takes place on the 14th night and ends on the 15th afternoon: the Rector blesses the chalks that the artists will use, and they then begin to draw images on the asphalt, inspired by existing or imaginary paintings. The works are short-lived as they are left at the mercy of the summer downpours: it is the photos collected over the years that bear witness to the great works created by over a hundred thousand people for the sanctuary.

The Santuario delle Grazie is a treasure trove of culture and moments of joy. Now deeply rooted in the Mantuan tradition, the Fiera delle Grazie is an unmissable event for all those who come to visit Mantua in the mid-August period.

Santuario delle Grazie
Pick a flower for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Grace