In the region of Abruzzo, the town of Sulmona in the Peligna Valley marks Easter Sunday with La Madonna che Scappa, or the Running Madonna. This ceremony has taken place since the 11th century and is organized by the Santa Maria di Loreto Brotherhood. The men, called lauretani, wear a white tunic with a shiny green cape to symbolize purity and hope.
The procession begins at 11:00 am starting at the medieval Church of Santa Maria della Tomba. Carried aloft are the statues of the Risen Christ, Saint John and Saint Peter. The lauretani carry the statues to the Chiesa di San Filippo Neri to announce the news of the Resurrection to the mourning Madonna of Loreto. At first, the Blessed Mother refuses to believe that the Christ has risen, but on the third attempt, the statue finally emerges from the church, held up by six lauretani.’
The Madonna, fully dressed in black, travels slowly into the main piazza. Suddenly, she sees her re-born son and with a loud bang, her mourning cloak is whipped away to reveal her bright green dress symbolizing new life. Twelve doves break free that are held under her cloak as the statue of Mary appears to fly joyously to embrace her son waiting at the end of the piazza. Bells ring, fireworks are set off, the band plays and the crowd excitedly embraces the ceremonies. Ancient folklore attached to this event states that if the mourning coat falls off correctly and the doves fly high, it will be a bountiful year for their crops.