One of the events I wrote about while in Santa Margherita Ligure this past June was the Festival of Sant’ Erasmo. Sant’ Erasmo is the patron saint, the protector of the fishermen. I attended three of the events.
The first event was a procession at sea (processione in mare). Saturday morning, June 28th, I walked down to the boat area across from the church where I believed the procession would be taking place.
A few minutes after I arrived, I noticed a very handsome priest, all dressed up talking to a few people in the small crowd. Next came a small procession of people, also dressed up, along with four men carrying the statue of Sant’ Erasmo. The statue was placed on a big fishing boat. This was quite an interesting ordeal. Once the statue was safely aboard, the people involved with the ceremony boarded the boat.
As I was taking photos, one of the men (who I believe had had something to do with the event) told me that if I was interested, I could go on a boat at the imbacadero. I understood everything he said to me except I was not sure where the imbacadero was. I walked down the waterfront in the direction he pointed but did not see any boats that looked like they were boarding passengers. I was just about to walk back, when I noticed a few ladies who were also watching the statue being placed on the boat walking towards the main boat dock where the boats left for Portofino and Rapallo. How obvious! The imbacadero meant the dock where you could catch the boat.
I followed the woman to the boat. There was a huge crowd waiting for the next boat to Portofino. The women weaved through the crowd and said something about the procession and were given free tickets to board a boat ready to depart. I followed the women and was also given a ticket to board the boat.
Our boat followed a bunch of other boats out to sea, motoring almost to Portofino. The breeze on the boat felt wonderful as it was a very hot day. As we motored out, a sweet older woman standing next to me started pointing out some of the sights; where she was staying, what beach she went to, etc. At one point I said “wow”. She replied, “Oh, you are not Italian”. I smiled. After we established where I was from, how I learned my little Italian, etc. she went right back to describing the various houses and villas she knew about. She also told me more about the procession.
We stopped at a spot near a big building on shore where monks lived. The priest said a short mass using a microphone so everyone could hear. All the boats blew their horns when the mass was finished and a wreath was thrown into the water. For some reason, I thought the statue would be going in the water, but it never did. I think I thought this because I remembered seeing a movie once that took place in Italy where a statue was put in the water. I think it might have been The Talented Mr. Ripley.
I felt very honored to be a part of this event. My guess is the family on board the boat lost someone at sea.
Everyone on my boat was very kind to me. I think I was the only American tourist on the boat. On our way back, we stopped closer to Santa Margherita Ligure. A few people on the boat that carried the statue and the handsome priest started waving to a few people on my boat.
Here is an updated album that I made (since Picasa is no more) with some of the photos I took during the procession at sea .
And a so-so short video. Clicking on the arrow on the bottom right corner and then clicking on HQ after the video starts will display the video in high quality. Warning – turn your volume down a little bit. Also this video is a little shaky. It may make you motion sick.
Here is the festival notice with all of events listed: