La Vara di Messina – Past Italia

Every August the people of Messina draw a 40-foot statue through their streets, and they have been doing this for 600 years. The edifice represents the final resting place of the Virgin Mary…

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The still photograph doesn’t do it justice. Giuseppe Pitre, the revered Sicilian writer, who died 100 years ago this year, witnessed the Vara of Messina and wrote “La Bara va veduta mentre è in movimento; ferma, non è più che una pallida ombra di sé stessa.” – “The Vara should be seen while it is in motion; still, it is but a pale shadow of itself.”

Vara is the Sicilian form of the Italian bara, a coffin. The coffin here is that of the Virgin Mary. This is the Dormition of the Mother of God. It follows from the doctrine that Mary did not actually die, but rather fell into a deep sleep, during which she ascended to heaven, in bodily form, to be accepted by Our Lord. The date is the 15th of August, and the people of Messina mark it every year.