Portovenere’s “White Madonna” torchlight procession

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Every year, on the 17th of August, Portovenere celebrates its local Patron Saint called White Madonna (Madonna Bianca). During the festival, the entire fishing village is lit up with over 2000 roman torches, including Byron’s Grotto and the rocky spur of Punta San Pietro. A traditional procession carrying the icon of the Virgin Mary takes place through the flower-decorated streets of the village.

White Madonna Festival: amazing video

Describing the emotional scenery that comes to life on this hot summer night can only do so much. Watch this video and be awe-inspired!

The legend

White Madonna Painting, from paolonoceti.it
White Madonna Painting, from paolonoceti.it

Wondering why this beautiful village on the Gulf of Poets venerates the White Madonna? The religious cult is tied to a miracle that legend has handed down through generations.

As the story goes, during the French occupation in 1399, Portovenere was being devastated by a plague. Lucciardo, a local devout man, was praying in front of an image of the Virgin Mary asking for his village to be freed from the terrible disease when, suddenly, the colors of the painting lit up, gleaming. The plague disappeared after this miraculous event.

Prior to the miracle – still according to pious tradition – the painting was a faded hand-drawn parchment that had washed ashore on Portovenere inside a log with other relics in 1204. Following the transformation, the painting was kept in the Church of San Lorenzo for it to be worshiped.

Witnessing the Madonna Bianca Event

Don’t just read about this unmissable event or watch the video online… visit Portovenere to actually witness this traditional torchlight procession and feel a variety of emotions between sacred and profane!


Photo credit: main image above by italianpix.wordpress.com; Madonna painting from paolonoceti.it

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