THE PENTECOST PILGRIMAGE TO THE "SANTUARIO DELL'AVVOCATA" IN MAIORI
On Pentecost Mondays, the Shrine of Avvocata in Maiori becomes a pilgrimage destination: let's find out what's special about it!
by Roberta Cascone
The Shrine of Maria Santissima Avvocata is located at a height of 827 meters on Mount Falerzio, overlooking the town of Maiori on the Amalfi Coast. It is a Marian place of worship that can only be reached by a number of paths from Cava de' Tirreni, Cetara or Maiori itself. It is a popular destination for both pilgrims and trekkers: in particular, processions are organized for the feast of Pentecost, which this year falls on Sunday, May 28. Let's find out about its origins and all the ways to get there!
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The Shrine on Mount Falerzio. Photo by Salvatore Guadagno
The Shrine in history and legend
The Shrine of the Madonna dell’Avvocata has always aroused great devotion in its faithful. Although it can only be reached on foot via long and partly challenging paths, it is still a popular place of pilgrimage.
Today, the shrine is run by the Benedictine Monks of the Avvocatella of Cava de' Tirreni, but it has very ancient origins. They date back to 1485, when a Maiorese shepherd, Gabriele Cinnamo, while shepherding his sheep, discovered a cave in the woods of Mount Falerzio. Later, the Virgin appeared to him in a dream and asked him to build an altar there: in return, she would become his "advocate," that is, his protector. The young shepherd quit his job and retreated to the mountain, collecting offerings to build a chapel with an altar in the cave until, in 1503, Pope Leo X gave permission for the construction of a church and a bell tower on the rock plateau above. That is how the shrine was erected, which even now occupies an enchanting panoramic position between the Lattari Mountains and the sea of the Gulf of Salerno.
The Altar for the Virgin. Photo by Salvatore Guadagno
The Pentecost Monday pilgrimage
Pentecost Monday, the feast day of the Avvocata, is the scene of a fascinating and evocative procession. On this occasion the faithful gather to climb to the top of the shrine to the sound of tammorre, typical percussion instruments of Campania's popular music. The ascent usually takes place on Sunday, with a stop during the night, then the pilgrimage is completed at dawn on Monday. At the sound of the noon bells, the statue of the Madonna is carried in procession as the faithful throw rose petals to the cry of "Hurray, Mary!". It is a real celebration with dances accompanied by tammorre, which lasts throughout the day on Monday, during which the statue of the Madonna, blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2002, is venerated. The Pentecost pilgrimage is thus very much felt by the Marian faithful, who in this way thank her for the protection she grants them. The Shrine is also the destination of a breathtaking trail for trekking lovers: here is all the information you need to tackle it!
The Shrine seen from above. Photo by Salvatore Guadagno.
A spectacular trail
The paths to reach the sanctuary of the Avvocata are within everyone's reach, but rather long and demanding. In particular, two are the most traveled ones: the first starts from the very ancient Badia di Cava de' Tirreni, from which you take path number 300 promoted by CAI, the Italian Alpine Club, which winds all along the Lattari Mountains and ends at Punta Campanella, right at the end of the Sorrento peninsula.
The second path, steeper but accessible from the Amalfi Coast, is the one that starts from a staircase at Via Casale Alto in Maiori. It runs through vineyards and citrus groves for about half an hour until it reaches the spring known as "Acqua del Castagno." This is the best spot for an initial stop to stock up on fresh water. The trail continues between flat stretches and climbs to the "Grottone," a cave overlooking a very impressive ravine. Continuing for about 5 km you reach the plateau that houses the shrine, a small church and the janitor's house. The view is incredible: in fact, in front of you you can admire the entire Gulf of Salerno in all its splendor. Finally, another staircase will lead you to the cave that, according to legend, was found by the shepherd Gabriele Cinnamo.
The Sanctuary of the Avvocata is not only a place of worship really dear to the people of Maiori: it is also a point of great cultural and naturalistic value for the entire Coast. If you are adventurous and walking a long distance does not scare you, the pilgrimage to the Shrine is absolutely an experience to be had!
Photo by trekkingamalficoast.com
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- Marian celebrations are also celebrated in September. On this occasion the mayor of Maiori makes available, along with the city administration, a special helicopter to facilitate the movement of the older devotees.