Marian devotion is the common denominator of Comacchio's popular religiosity, as the many churches dedicated to the Madonna testify: S. Rosario, S. Maria in Aula Regia, Beata Vergine del Carmine, Madonna di maggio (better known as the church of S. Pietro) and the Chiesa del Suffragio, not forgetting the churches suppressed in the nineteenth century that were also dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
A devotion fashioned by the environment, with a town surrounded by water, which defined the destiny of the community. The people entrusted themselves to the Virgin Mary to bless the waters during the fishing period and to dominate them in order to protect the lagoon town at the time of the floods.
The devotional images, which can still be admired along the streets today, are the testimony of this entrustment.
In this itinerary, we will discover 13 images, which are considered the most significant in terms of dating and iconography, dotted along Corso Garibaldi and Corso Mazzini, which connects the town to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria in Aula Regia.
So let’s set out and immerse ourselves in the spirituality of Comacchio.
The usual iconography of Santa Maria in the Aula Regia is interpreted with a certain expressive freedom: the foreground is animated by the drapery of the robes worn by the Madonna, who supports the standing Child.
The only example of ex-voto, unusually located outdoors, is found on the facade of the house of a Comacchio boatman and recalls the grace received for being saved.
The boat is depicted during a storm at sea, with its sails inflated by a raging wind. The sailor, at the helm, invokes the help of the Madonna. She appears to him among the clouds together with the Child and with her hand on the man's house, assures him protection and the certainty of his return.
Located above an entrance where there is a "segue la numerazione” (the numbering continues) sign, is one of the many small alleys that connect the public street to the areas at the back, that were once meadows where boats were pulled ashore.
The iconography brings to mind a print by Agostino Carracci and shows an image of the Madonna del Latte (The Nursing Madonna), a theme dear to the devotion of women who had problems in breastfeeding their children. At the foot of the niche, there was a lamp that served both to illuminate the image and to illuminate the dark street.
Relief on the concave back of a terracotta basin embedded in the masonry above the entrance to an alley "the numbering continues".
The figurative structure of the Madonna and Child recalls the stylistic forms of the statue, with the same theme, in the Clock Tower with the Child positioned on the left. To make it easier to identify, the name of the owner of the house or the place where it was located (tower, loggia, square or street name) was often associated with the devotional image.
The oval is inserted on the front of a porch (altana) in the middle of an alley, which is almost a large courtyard, where many women used to meet to knit or to make fishing nets.
The image refers to the cult of St. Mary in Aula Regia, but with the iconographic variants of the Child on the left and the royal crowns.
Inserted in an arched niche without a frame on the wall that breaks the continuity of the road at right angles, it shows the Madonna holding up the Child with her right arm. Angels can be seen holding a crown in the upper part.
The medallion, which is now inserted in the facade of the ancient town hall, at one time was on the base of the clock tower. It is the reinterpretation of a sixteenth century iconographic theme, but the image of San Giovannino is missing, to whom the Virgin and Child were offering bunches of roses. The raised hand of the Child becomes a blessing and the disproportionately large hand of the Madonna takes on the symbol of Providence.
The image is found in a niche with a large Istrian stone frame. The letters ZDPM inscribed at the bottom have been interpreted as meaning Zarattini Dionigio Monumentum Posuit, given the particular Marian devotion and the considerable financial resources of the Zarattini family who wanted to place it on their own house. According to oral traditions, the Madonna was the protector of boatmen and porters who unloaded the boats and took the grain to the nearby public granary (the Loggia dei Signori).
The niche, with a gabled profile, contains an image with an evocative iconography: the remarkable discovery of the statue of Santa Maria in Aula Regia that came to the lagoons of Comacchio from the sea in a basket carried in flight by angels. A symbolic composition that recalls the Marian themes of the Assumption and the Translation of the Holy House of Loreto, often expressed with adaptations to local cults.
The image, framed by large acanthus leaves, recalls Renaissance models, from Raphael to Correggio, of which stylistic experiences of the eighteenth-century Bolognese school are not uncommon. With smooth and elegant lines, Maria, in a slightly inclined pose, tenderly hugs the Child, the head of which is now missing.
The niche below a seventeenth-century corner balcony once contained a sculpture in the round made in 1734 by Luigi Fogli.
It was one of the oldest reproductions of the Madonna del Popolo (Madonna of the People). After it was stolen in 1981, it was immediately replaced by this terracotta version made by the Comacchio artist Giglio Zarattini.
Image set in a tabernacle that occupies the wall that partially closes the opening arch of the Capuchin Portico. The artist takes the image of the statue of Santa Maria in Aula Regia, stylizes it and simplifies its forms.
The painting is surrounded by a large oval frame shaped in the lunette of the temple built in the early eighteenth century at the centre of the Porticato dei Cappuccini (Capuchin Portico) built in 1647.
The current painting is from the beginning of the last century as a sign of gratitude to the Madonna for having saved Comacchio from the 1908 earthquake. The inscription "Sì Maria a te solo io bramo/ pongo in te ogni speranza/ e quel viver che m'avanza/ a te voglio consacrar (Yes Mary to you only I yearn/ I place all hope in you/ and that the life I have left/ I want to dedicate to you") that was once painted on a frescoed drape, is now shown in a relief on a marble plaque.