Madonna del Soccorso – Sciacca

The cult of Maria Santissima del Soccorso in Sciacca has ancient traditions that date back to 1432 when she arrived in the town by sea and was carried to the church by young sailors thus giving rise to the privilege, which fishermen still have today, of carrying the simulacrum of the Madonna in processions.

The story tells that during the procession of 2 February 1626, when the plague epidemic had decimated the population, the inhabitants of Saccensi resorted to the Virgin of Soccorso carrying her around the alleys and streets of the town, praying and invoking her help in the hope of a miracle.

When the sacred statue arrived in procession in the market square, today the current via Licata, a cloud of smoke was seen rising from the base of the Madonna which brought an end to the plague that was looming over the city of Sciacca, instantly healing all the inhabitants of Sciacca.

The miracle attributed to the Madonna caused her to be elected patron saint of Sciacca and the people solemnly promised to carry her simulacrum “forever and irrevocably” in procession on February 2nd and August 15th of each year.

In memory of that prodigy, the people of Saccensi renew their vow, pronounced that day, to make a pilgrimage the day before and the next day to carry in procession the marble simulacrum of the Madonna, elected patroness of the city, on a seventeenth-century vara adorned with jewels of gold, silver and coral, donated by devotees who asked for graces.

During the festivities, the traditional ritual of the “Fumata” takes place in via Licata: a cloud of incense spreads in the air, recalling the miracle of liberation from the plague.

A hundred barefoot sailors carry the vara, weighing several tons, on their shoulders in procession through the streets of the centre, and it is truly a sight not to be missed.