Dec 192011

L’Immacolata: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in Liguria,[1] Italy,
By Natalia Sarkissian

Vivaldi-In Turbato Mare Irato, RV 627

(click and listen to the motet[2] sung by soprano Susan Gritton while viewing the following photographs)


On December 8, schools and businesses close throughout Italy. It’s the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.[3]


In small towns up and down the Ligurian coast, at midday people savor trofie al pesto[4]


and lemon-flavored fish


or a simple slice of farinata[5] .


Then they search for the sun, and bask.


When bells chime at ten to four, couples venture


together up hillsides, .

or singly, along roads carved above inlets.


Up to monasteries they go,


to pray,


to wait for the sunset,


or to reminisce,


near Latin-inscribed[6] plaques dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Stella Maris :[7]


In mare irato,
In subita procella,
Invoco te,
Nostra benigna stella.[8]


–Text and photographs by Natalia Sarkissian

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Liguria, a narrow strip of land to the north of Italy, lies on the Ligurian Sea and is ringed by mountains (the Alps to the north and the Appenines to the east). Liguria is one of the smallest regions (1.18% of the total land mass of Italy). Of this, 65% of the Ligurian region is mountainous with the remaining 35% made up of hills.
  2. According to musicologist Margaret Bent, “a piece of music in several parts with words” serves as definition of the motet from its inception in the 13th century and beyond. The Medieval theorist, Johannes Grocheio, believed that the motet was “not intended for the vulgar who do not understand its finer points and derive no pleasure from hearing it: it is meant for educated people and those who look for refinement in art.”
  3. A doctrine of the Roman Catholic church, the Immaculate Conception signifies that the Virgin Mary was conceived free of original sin. As dogma, it is conceptually distinct from the virginity of Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus.

    A chief source for the representation of the Immaculate Conception is the Book of Revelation (12:1-12:2) “of a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars…” This painting by G.B. Tiepolo.

  4. trofie,a hand-rolled and pinched pasta, is typical of Liguria
  5. made from chick pea flour and extra virgin olive oil, farinata, piping hot from the oven, is another delicacy of the region
  6. This is a case where the words are the same in both Latin and Italian.
  7. Star of the Sea, a title for the Virgin Mary which, according to Wikipedia, dates from the 9th century and refers to her role as the guiding hope for Christians and sailors alike.
  8. In rough seas,
    in unexpected storms,
    we invoke thee,
    our gracious star.

    By Gabriello Chiabrera (1552-1638), a poet and lyricist from Savona (near Genoa), Italy.

  12 Responses to “L’Immacolata: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Liguria, Italy — Natalia Sarkissian”

  1. Lovely, N. Esp w/ the music. Looks chilly, people bundled up, fall sunlight, the beach buttoned up. I like the people talking outside the church.

  2. Love the color of the pesto….

  3. nat, che ricordi!!!!
    lovely piks and music
    grazie, di cuore.

  4. Thanks for this, Natasha! What a lovely way to celebrate the season. I love the photo of the two nuns walking towards the piscina, and I want some of that green pasta!

  5. Thanks to you all for reading.

  6. Another beautiful, transporting, photo essay. Thanks, Natasha.

  7. I’m glad you enjoyed the “trip”, Lynne!

  8. Thanks for sharing. Now I feel I’ve had Christmas in Tucson and Sestri!
    PS and we enjoyed the photo of Mauro.

    Happy 2012 to all of you.


  9. A whole lot of culture in one compact piece–thanks, Nat. Any info on the Medusa? What a pained & sorrowful expression. How does she fit into the whole? Thanks again, Frankie

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