Blessed are those who have a history … and Arpino has not missed its history, which is its link with the Madonna of Loreto, the heavenly Lady of Loreto.
The worship of Our Lady began on December 10th of 1656, when a terrible plague befell the whole territory around Arpino causing thousands of deaths. The Duke Ugo Boncompagni, Lord of Arpino, Sora and Arce, sought the help of Our Lady of Loreto and vowed to donate a silver lamp and keep it turned on at his own expense.
If it were to remain immune from the plague he would go in person to Loreto “to fulfil that obligation, and to hand over the gift”. The gift was presented at a solemn ceremony in the Church of St. Michael, Our Lady was entreated and Arpino no longer suffered from the plague.
Even today, the citizens of Arpino remember Loreto and in December in the town an imposing religious procession takes place and for a month the statue of the Madonna is displayed.
This statue is jealously guarded by the Cloistered Sisters of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew, since it is said that it was one of them who asked for it as a gift to her father. He had it built in Loreto and donated it. For this, part of the procession is from the convent and it is carried to the Church of Saint Michael in December, while in January it is displayed in another procession to the convent of nuns.
The history of the statue is special: 100 years after the first miracle, in 1756, the famous artist Michael Stoltz, who was at that time in the town, built the wooden carriage that still is used for transport of the statue on the shoulders of bearers during the processions.
The cult has been strengthened over the centuries because the Madonna of Loreto has protected Arpino also in other circumstances such as when the French troops of Napoleon conquered Italy with bloodshed and destruction. It was 1798: the French army approached Arpino menacingly and the people entrusted their protection to their Heavenly Mother. On the morning of 11 March Castelliri and Isola del Liri were attacked, but when they arrived at Arpino, the French stopped.
It is recorded that the bells of all the churches of Arpino were ringing at full peal, as the people implored Our Lady of Loreto for protection, doing processions of penance, and all the statues of the Madonna were taken to the church of St. Michael. Then the statues were placed ‘outside the town gates’ (from where there is a beautiful view) and the French who had arrived below the walls on war footing, fled in fear for no apparent reason.
Fra ‘Giuseppe Palma, of the Abbey of Trisulti collected the statements of French who said they had retreated to avoid confronting the of 9-10 thousand people of Arpino dressed in white. The elders said that they were the olive trees garbed to appear under the guise of warriors.
To thank once again the Madonna, the inhabitants of Arpino named her as the main protector of the city, leaving the Archangel Michael and St. Peter Martyr as minor patrons, and December 10 became a feast day. Another important day is the September 8, 1902, when the coronation was made of the Madonna with Child in her arms.
The feast of December 10, continues and is enriched with a market of local craftsmen and a market with the sale of local products where you can experience the various tastes of the Ciociaria delicacies.