L’Immacolata: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in Liguria, Italy

L’Immacolata: The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in Liguria, (1) Italy,

Vivaldi – In Turbato Mare Irato, RV 627

(click and listen while viewing the following photographs)

Overlooking the Bay of Silence, Sestri Levante

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


This essay originally appeared in Numero Cinq Magazine, December 2012.

  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. dg says:December 19, 2011 at 10:17 amLovely, N. Esp w/ the music. Looks chilly, people bundled up, fall sunlight, the beach buttoned up. I like the people talking outside the church.Reply
  2. beebee says:December 19, 2011 at 11:03 amLove the color of the pesto….Reply
  3. betta says:December 20, 2011 at 8:59 amnat, che ricordi!!!!
    lovely piks and music
    grazie, di cuore.Reply
  4. kim a says:December 20, 2011 at 9:45 amThanks 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!Reply
  5. ns says:December 20, 2011 at 11:23 amThanks to you all for reading.Reply
  6. Lynne says:December 20, 2011 at 11:37 amAnother beautiful, transporting, photo essay. Thanks, Natasha.Reply
  7. ns says:December 21, 2011 at 3:04 amI’m glad you enjoyed the “trip”, Lynne!Reply
  8. Joby says:December 31, 2011 at 10:21 amThanks 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.Love,
  9. FRANCES says:March 14, 2012 at 10:06 amA 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, FrankieReply

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