Along the Via Roma, you can’t but notice the beautiful square overlooked by the great and elegant Church of San Domenico and dominated by a tall column on which a statue of the Virgin is placed: well, this is the heart of the celebrations in honor of the Immaculate Conception, primary patron of the city and archdiocese of Palermo. The Feast of the Immaculate, one of the most important of the Catholic liturgical calendar, is December 8, but the celebration in Palermo begins the day before, on the evening of the 7th, when people go on a pilgrimage to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi to pay homage to the statue of the Madonna that is guarded there. Moreover they will attend the ceremony of the offering of the silver shields that the Municipality donates to the Immaculate, to reiterate the oath of fidelity to the Virgin made in 1624, when Our Lady, together with Santa Rosalia, freed the city from the plague. This is the so-called “sanguinary vote”, that is to say the promise of defending the Immaculate Conception of Mary until the shedding of blood.
On the 8th, the solemn procession of the statue of the Immaculate takes place. The statue is made of embossed silver inspired by the vision of John described in the Apocalypse: a woman surrounded by the sun’s rays, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. Crying “Trema lu ‘nfernu e trionfa Maria…..viva Maria ‘mmaculata” (the hell trembles and Mary triumphs… live Mary the Immaculate) the members of the Porto e Riporto congregation (founded in 1726, it reunites people committed to carry on their shoulders the statue of the Virgin and then bring it back to the church of San Francesco) move through the streets of the city, along Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Roma to Piazza San Domenico. Here we witness the offering of flowers to the Virgin by the city: a couple of firemen, climbing along a stairway, bring the large bouquet up to the statue, under the eyes of a multitude of cheering faithful.
The procession then continues to the Cathedral, where the authorities will sign a special register to witness the celebration, and finally returns to San Francesco.