MARIA SANTISSIMA DELL'UDIENZA (OUR LADY OF THE AUDIENCE)


Maria Santissima dell'Udienza or Madona dell'Udienza or Our Lady of the Audience is a marble sculpture in created by the Renaissance sculptor Antonello Gagini, in the early 1500s. The statue is currently housed in the apse of the nave of the central Sanctuary of the Our lady of the Audience Sambuca di Sicilia.

On the evening of third Sunday of May, the statue is carried in procession through the main streets of the historical center of Sambuca di Sicilia, supported on the shoulders of members of the Confraternita Maria SS. della'Udienza (Bortherhood of Our Lady of the Audience). 

History
The sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus goes back to the early sixteenth century. A wealthy family brought the statue to Sambuca di Sicilia to the area of Cellaro Tower, part of the fortifications of the area. It lay hidden there for many years inside a cavity of oven kitchens of the tower, and was found by a Sambucese farmer in 1575. During that time a plague was raging through Sambuca. The local farmers decided to take the statue and parade it through the neighborhood infirmary, area of the country dedicated to the care of lepers in the hope that Our Lady would perform a miracle. The moment the statue was attributed to healing the leprosy and it became known as Our Lady of the Audience, because she heard the prayers of the sick.

Feast of Our Lady of the Audience 

Since the statue was brought to Sambuca in 1575 an annual celebration has been held in honor of Our Lady of the Audience. The statue is removed from the church and hoisted upon the shoulders of members of the which passes through the main streets of the historical center carried by the members of Confraternita Maria SS. della'Udienza (Bortherhood of Our Lady of the Audience) and paraded about around the city. The procession is accompanied by prayers, hymns, and folk music played by the local municipal band and the procession lasts until the dawn on the following Monday and ends with a display of fireworks.

Madonna dell’Udenzia is venerated elsewhere in Sicily: in Ciminna at the Church of St. John the Baptist, there is a triptych dating to the 1600s depicting the miracle; in Petralia Soprana, there is a replica statue, and church dedicated to Madonna dell’Udenzia Devotions to the Madona dell’Udenzia are also held in other villages in including Mezzojuso and Roccamena.

In the United States
When Sicilians emigrated the United States and is commemorated at a number of churches, most famously at Holy Rosary Catholic Church of Kansas City, Missouri where the Feast has been celebrated since the church was founded in 1890. A local family brought a replica of the statue of Our Lady of the Audience when they immigrated and it’s celebrated with an annual processional with an honor guard from the Knights of Colombus.

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