Madonna-Warrior from the Skies

May 30, 2011

Like a bolt from the blue, the Madonna storms out of the skies on a mighty white stallion, sword at hand, slashing and slaying an army of Saracens.

Not  your version of the Madonna?

Well, this is Sicily, where everything’s a little different.

The year is 1091. The place is Scicli, near Sicily’s southern coast.

Madonna delle Milizie festa, Scicli, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Madonna delle Milizie

The Normans ruled Sicily at that time. Norman knights were battling Saracens and getting creamed. The Norman leader, Roger de Hauteville, prayed to the Madonna for help, and–miracle of miracles–she swooped down to save the day.

Almost a thousand years later, la Madonna delle Milizie is still revered and celebrated in this stony little baroque town. The entire 1091 event is re-enacted each year in late May.

Normans (actors) in Scicli Festival Madonna delle Milizie

The Normans

Saracens at the festival of Madonna delle Milizie in Scicli, Sicily

The Saracens

What do the locals eat to celebrate the 1091 event?

Turkish heads.

That’s right. They feast on testa di turco, a large cream puff in the shape of a turban. Never mind that the Turks came nowhere near Sicily until the 16th century.


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11 comments to Madonna-Warrior from the Skies

  • Linda

    Nice story,
    I was lucky enough to attend this festival and despite my visit starting out as a bit of uncomfortable “business” it made the trek to Scicli very worth while. one of the horsemen had “forgotten” to pay me for his mount. Tracked him down and anyway ,got my money and had a good time too!

  • Gianfranco

    Maybe Lucy was looking for Altavilla Milicia which is not so far from Termini Imerese

  • cemal karahan

    Nice subject, Jann….A big bravo to you…! History is always an interesting subject and I am not exaggerating that when you take the word ‘Turk’ out of the European history, there will be almost nothing interesting to read. As to Sarecens, Saladin Ayyubi won a great victory against the Crusaders and defeated the European allied armies of all nations in Jerusalem.History is history.Hello to peacemakers, of course; down with war lords….! By the way ,the one on the right migt be one of my relatives….!

    • Jann

      You’re right, Cemal. The Ottomans/Turks certainly add lots of excitement to European history! 🙂

  • Wayne

    Nice story.

  • Jann, your posts are not always delightful, but I learn so much about the Sicilian culture and its traditions! The Madonna looks fearless astride her horse and I had to smile when I read about the “testa di turco.” 🙂 I love the idea of reenacting an event such as this. It must be a wonderful thing to witness!

  • I walked 6 hours one time from Termini Imerese I think maybe to here to touch the picture of the madonna in the church. I think it was at Milizie. Do you know if they have such a pilgrimmage in the late summer?

    • Jann

      Hi Lucy, I looked around on the internet to see if there is a town up north in the vicinity of Termini Imerese named Milizie, but, sorry, I couldn’t find anything…

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