One of the oldest celebrations and the original ritual: this is the day of Madonna del Campo of Cave on April 27 of each year. But how did it start and how does it take place?
In the religious festivals, the citizens carry through the streets of the town a very old procession carriage (machine) that was created following the images in a painting in the church. The carriage is a true work of art and during the year is hidden from the public in an old case that preserves it from the damage over the years.
On the carriage, the four statues representing the Madonna with the baby in her arms, St. Peter and St. Paul, are arranged. Each statue is very elaborate and the figure of the Madonna is decorated with jewels that have been donated to the church over the years.
The carriage and statue complex is so heavy that it takes about ten people to carry it in the procession and they have to change regularly so they do not get too tired.
But how did this worship become so valued to all Cave citizens?
The story began in 1655 when a peasant who was ploughing the earth with oxen saw the animals kneeling in front of what appeared to be an icon: it was a table representing a Madonna with a child between the two saints Peter and Paul.
Possibly the Byzantine style image was part of an ancient church dedicated to St. Peter by Pope Simmaco in the 4th century. The church had been abandoned and destroyed during the Barbarian invasions. The memory of the church had been lost, and its remains were soon covered by earth and debris.
The name of Madonna del Campo comes from the way in which it was re-discovered or perhaps the name of the locality ‘Campo’ comes from the battlefield where the Romans and Prenestini clashed against Volsci and Ernici in 267 AC. These open fields were also the site of military training in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The image was considered sacred and became a destination for pilgrimages. For this reason, in the place of discovery, it was decided to erect a new chapel, especially when in 1656 the plague broke out in Lazio and the population sought protection from the saints. In 1659 they started to work, but at the same time the new church of Santa Maria Assunta was under construction.
Unfortunately, the money ended for construction of both churches, and only another cataclysm, the earthquake of 1703, prompted the work of the sanctuary, which was quickly completed and consecrated in 1707.
The date of 27 April was chosen on the occasion of a new emergency: it was 1837 and cholera spread among the inhabitants of Rome. Cave citizens traded with the Romans and needed protection. Madonna del Campo was chosen and decided to devote the day of April 27 to her celebrations.
In 1880, Cardinal Antonio De Luca, with a decree, proclaimed Madonna del Campo, Patron of Cave, together with San Lorenzo.
Even today the feast in honor of Madonna del Campo of Cave is a way of continuing a well-respected tradition and of reviving the sense of community values. It is also a way to present the products and excellence of the territory.