An important weekend has just concluded for Vicenza. September 8th holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Vicenza, a city nestled in the heart of the Veneto region in Italy. This day is dedicated to the patronal celebration in honor of Our Lady of Monte Berico, the city’s principal patron saint. It is also known as the “Festa dei Oto,” a unique and cherished tradition that blends profound religious reverence with lively local customs, involving both the citizens of Vicenza and the numerous pilgrims who flock to the city.
Ancient Devotion and the Miracle of Our Lady of Monte Berico
The history of Our Lady of Monte Berico traces back to a dark period in the 15th century when Vicenza was ravaged by a devastating plague between 1425 and 1428. In this time of despair, the population turned to the Virgin Mary, seeking divine intervention. Legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared twice to a humble peasant named Vincenza Pasini on Monte Berico, first on March 7, 1426, and then again on August 1, 1428. The Virgin Mary requested the construction of a shrine in her honor at that location and even provided a design with a small olive cross as guidance.
The people of Vicenza took this divine request to heart, laying the foundation stone of the church on August 25, 1428. Miraculously, the plague ceased, and the community faithfully kept its promise to honor the date of August 25th each year with a solemn procession and a visit of gratitude to the image of the Madonna.
Andrea Palladio’s contribution to the Sanctuary
Over the centuries, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monte Berico underwent significant architectural transformations. The renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio was even involved in its expansion during the 17th century, underscoring the cultural and religious importance of the site.
Devotion to the Virgin Mary has been deeply ingrained in Vicenza’s tradition since the 13th century when mendicant religious orders played a pivotal role in spreading Marian devotion. However, it was with the establishment of the Monte Berico Sanctuary and the arrival of the Servites of Mary that this devotion reached its zenith.
The Proclamation of Our Lady of Monte Berico as the Patroness of Vicenza
September 8th also marks the liturgical feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, coinciding with the celebration of Our Lady of Monte Berico. In 1978, Pope Paul VI officially proclaimed Our Lady of Monte Berico as the patroness of the city of Vicenza, solidifying the deep bond between the community and the Virgin Mary.
The “Festa dei Oto”: a fusion of devotion and folk tradition
In addition to its religious significance, September 8th is a day of celebration for the people of Vicenza. The city comes alive with joy, colors, and entertainment, thanks to the presence of the Luna Park, which appears in the days leading up to and following the feast. Campo Marzo, in front of the railway station, becomes the pulsating heart of the celebrations with rides and attractions that bring moments of delight to both young and old.
The “Festa dei Oto” is a unique occasion where religious devotion harmoniously blends with popular tradition, creating a special moment when the city of Vicenza comes together to honor its patron saint and enjoy a day of festivities.