First Sunday in March

Madonna di Costantinopoli, Marittima di Diso, Lecce, Apulia, Italy

The story goes that on three summer nights in 1589, while walking along his roof terrace, Don Domenico Coluccia, parish priest of Marittima, saw an unusual light like a torch in the woods below. To verify the sight, the pastor then invited some villagers to dinner and kept them until the light reappeared. The next day, they returned with shovels and hoes. Digging at the site marked by the flame, they found a pile of rubble under a bush, and under that, a painting of the Madonna on a stone slab. Moved by her sign of favor, the residents built a niche to hold the icon. A little later, to facilitate devotion, they tried moving the image closer to town, but after it returned three times to its original spot, people decided the Virgin wanted it there. So many miracles ensued that there was enough money from donations to build a church. On Tuesday, September 14, 1610, construction began on the present Sanctuary at the place where the image was found. A few years later, a Franciscan monastery was added. The mysterious image was called St. Mary of Constantinople, possibly after one of the other madonnas of the region venerated under that name, or because it was assumed to be part of the ruins of an ancient church founded by monks who fled the Byzantine empire in the iconoclastic period (730-842). It occupies the round center of the baroque altarpiece in the chapel of Santa Maria di Costantinopoli. A statue representing Our Lady of Constantinople, venerated in the church of San Vitale, processes on the first Friday in August. The Franciscan monastery is now an inn. The Fair of the Madonna of Constantinople takes place on the first Sunday in March, a mix of sacred and secular: high mass, concerts, marketplace. 

Source: book jacket, Filippo Giacomo Cerfeda, Santa Maria di Costantinopoli a Marittima, 2001, www.

Sources include: 
"Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli,"
"Marittima, frazione di Diso,";
Valerio Terragno, "La Madonna di Costantinopoli a Marittima," L'Ora del Salento, Feb. 21, 2009, 
Confraternita "Maria SS. Immacolata,"  

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly