Madonna della provvidenza
The "fera sutta u cuazzu" feast
In San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata, the devotion to Our Lady of Providence is deep, the events that led to the great feast that is celebrated every year, on the second Sunday of October, in her honor, make it a fascinating story. The village elders say that the statue of the Madonna of Providence dates back to at least 150 years ago. They remember it as children, placed on a table in the side aisle of the church of San Giovanni. Nobody knows by whom it was commissioned or the exact year of its arrival in the village. The news dates back to 1945, when Mr. Sebastiano Narisi, known as “u Ciucino”, organized the feast of the Madonna, called “Madonna du Ciucinu” by himself and at his own expense. He was an honest and very devoted man, but in 1947, due to a poor harvest, he organized the party but could not pay the marching band, specially brought from Castronovo. The players looked for him everywhere, to collect or punish him, but he escaped and hid in the Albiso district, in the farm of the Engineer Guarino, where he stayed for more than 15 days. Some shepherds found him, at the end of his life, who recommended himself to his Madonna, begging her to open the gates of paradise to him.
After his death, the festival was abandoned for a few years, it was celebrated only in the church, granting the statue the honors of the high altar. Archpriest Samson celebrated a Mass sung in honor of the Madonna, according to the intentions of the devotees. In July 1951 a strange event happened, Mr. Giuseppe Musacchia, meant "Peppi Paliddu", then a young boy, had a particular dream, in this the Madonna asked him to organize his party. When in the morning he went to the Archpriest Samson to tell him the dream, he discovered that the Madonna of the dream was none other than the image of the Madonna of Providence. The young man wanted to organize the party at any cost, but the economic conditions of the family were not such as to allow him, only after much insistence and with a small contribution from Archpriest Samson, could he start the initiative, buying from "Giurlannu", a small local historical shop, where you could find all kinds of things, a statuette depicting the Madonna, to be used for a charity fishing trip. So, he went around the country to sell tickets for 5 lire each. There were those who gave him money but also those who gave him a "junta" of wheat, thus managing to collect 4 bodies of wheat and a total of 11 thousand lire. Thus, with these funds and with the free collaboration of friends and acquaintances (including Don Angelo Brucato, known as "u paraturaru" because on the occasion of the holidays he decorated the church, Antonino La Corte, known as "Ninu u Surdu", who helped by his cousin Salvatore, the gang leader Pietro Zimbardo, known as “Moscardino”, who, for the occasion played with the band for a symbolic fee), took care of the male), the party took place. It was thanks to the commitment of Mr. Musacchia, that in the 60s the altar of the Madonna was built, located in the left side aisle of the Mother Church. To support the costs of the marble and for the masonry, a bill of 250,000 lire was signed at the local Cassa Rurale, for which don Ciccino La Placa, don Alfonso Verga, the master Paolino La Rocca and Musacchia himself guaranteed, then paid , in 1962, with the generous donations of hundreds of emigrants, with whom Muracchia, in the meantime, had made contact involving them in the operation.
In the years 68/69, since the faithful complained that the Madonna and Child were devoid of crowns, such as "puvuriaddi", Mr. Musacchia began to collect gold to make them, managing to collect a kilo and a half of gold to melt, and 600,000 lire to pay the Veronese engraver Gino Legnagli. The crowns, of precious manufacture, were kept in the Cassa Rurale, and unfortunately, a short time later, they were stolen from there and never found again. Only in the 1980s was it possible to put together the sum necessary for the construction of the new crowns. In 1982, after a long restoration, the statue of the Madonna and Child, made of wood and gold leaf, was placed in its final location.
Not to be missed
The cattle fair of the Madonna dei Miracoli in the past was among the largest in western Sicily. Before sowing, the last fair took place on the second Sunday of October in one of the common areas of Cammarata and San Giovanni, in the lower part of the town. Due to its position, the fair was called fera di Ncapuacosta (or fera da matrici) in low Cammarata and fera di sutta u cùozzu in San Giovanni Gemini and in the upper part of Cammarata. Along the roads around the Matrice there was a market where agricultural tools and various trinkets were sold: everything that could be useful for the winter.
After World War II, the fair was resumed, and a ride in costume began to be organized, recalling a vow made to the Madonna del Conte di Cammarata. It was a singular sight that attracted a large crowd. After the Second World War it was resumed but then declined. The Sangiovannesi have been able to grasp the change: the tradition in Cammarata disappeared, the fair moved to San Giovanni Gemini, becoming the feast of the Madonna della Provvidenza. The last livestock fairs took place in the 1970s. The typical food was (and continues to be) roasted chestnuts (caliati chestnuts).