The History of the Feast in Italy
This history is a compilation of information gathered from books, periodicals and oral traditions. Our intention is to be as accurate as possible. Many times in our research we have come upon conflicting facts, especially in the oral tradition. We have put forth what we believe is a fairly accurate account of the Madonna Dei Martiri Tradition in Hoboken. We apologize for any unintentional errors.
Born in Molfetta
The tradition of the Madonna Dei Martiri goes back many years. It was in the year 1399, on the orders of the King of Napoli, Ladislao di Durazzo that the Street Festival and Religious celebration were first combined to celebrate the “Miracle” and blessings of the Madonna. This celebration is traditionally held on September 8, which is the Universal Feast of the Nativity of Mary. The actual “Miracle” of the Madonna occurred many years before this date.
Molfetta, situated as a port town on the Adriatic Sea, has historically been a maritime community. In 1188 a boatload of Crusaders returning from the Holy Land found the Icon of the Madonna floating on the water. They brought it to the Hospice in Molfetta which was constructed in 1162 on the orders of the Norman King, William II. The Crusaders would return to Molfetta, many of whom were wounded and dying. It is for this reason that Molfetta had built the Hospice. Those who were returned to health went on their way, while some died in Molfetta as Martyrs of the Faith. Everyone prayed to the Madonna of Martyrs who was symbolized as a Mother and Child with Angels, in a Byzantine style Icon. The Madonna in 1840 became the town’s patron along side San Corrado. Especially devoted were the fisherman who asked for her protection. Annually, the Molfettese people, where ever they are in the world, take time to celebrate this Miracle. Traditionally, there is Novena with a Mass and procession through the streets. At some point the Icon (now statue) is placed on the fishing boats for veneration. A plenary indulgence is granted by the Pope to anyone who attends the Mass of the Madonna Dei Martiri and the Mass the Sunday following Easter.
Video of the feast in Molfetta, Italy
History of Our Feast
The Hoboken Italian Festival, the premier Italian-American festival in the New Jersey tri-state area, is nearly 85 years old, and is derived from a festival in Italy that is over 600 years old. The festival occurs yearly, the weekend after Labor Day, for 4 days at beautiful Sinatra Park, on the historic waterfront of Hoboken, NJ. The highlight of the feast, beyond the fabulous variety of foods and entertainment, is the day long procession through the streets of Hoboken, including a pain staking reenactment of the "Blessing of the Fleet" in the Hudson River, all culminating with a huge fireworks extravaganza over the park. Sinatra Park, named after Hoboken's favorite son, Frank Sinatra, is where On The Waterfront was filmed in 1954.