Mamma Schiavona

Mamma Schiavona

Mamma Schiavona, literally ‘‘Mother Slave,’’ is an icon of the Virgin Mary situated in the sanctuary of Montevergine, near Avellino in the southern Italy. Mamma Schiavona is celebrated on 12 September—the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary—and on 2 February—Candlemas, the presentation of Jesus at the Temple—with the iuta , that is, the climb to the sanctuary.

Mary of Montevergine, who is a black Madonna, is called Mamma Schiavona by believers; unfortunately, it does not seem to be possible to retrace the etymology of this name. What is certain is the participation of groups of femminielli  (similar to homosexuals and transsexuals) in the worship of this icon.

According to Ceccarelli (2008), this worship appears to date back to the early seventeenth century, but it could possibly be traced back even earlier, according to some founding myths.

The importance of Mamma Schiavona and her fascinating history go beyond the borders of local popular religion. In fact, this icon inspired Pasolini (1971), who used the femminielli ’s chorus in his movie ‘‘Il Decameron’’ and De Sica (1954) who did the same in his movie ‘‘L’oro di Napoli’’ (Niola, 2014).

For the full reportage please visit

Leave a comment