Sunday, 7 December 2008

Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Italian Harlem - one of three America's crowned Madonnas

Italian immigrants who arrived in New York City during the last quarter of the nineteenth century came from a variety of southern Italian towns. Those from Polla (Salerno) arrived in 1878 and occupied the area around 115th Street. In 1881 a small community of Genovese settled south of 106th Street. Neapolitans chose the area between 106th and 108th Streets while new arrivals from Basilicata lived between 108th and 115th Street.

The 1890s saw the arrival of a number of laborers from Calabria. Some immigrants were brought uptown by an Irish-American contractor, J. D. Crimmins, to work on the First Avenue trolley tracks. Others sought the cleaner air of northern Manhattan and the increased prospect of work in the growing construction trades. By 1884 there were approximately four thousand Italians in Northern Manhattan. Italian Harlem was known as one of New York Citys Little Italy's. Typical of those Little Italys was the celebration of the popular feasts to which were reminiscences of their homes in their native lands. The feast of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel was first held in 1881. This feast enlivened the desire to have a church dedicated to the fulfillment of religious duties and to venerate the Blessed Mother. This church would be built by the Italians, and was to be called the parish of the Italians in New York. With the completion of the church came the arrival of the Statue of the Blessed Mother. The Statute came from Italy and was adorned with precious garments. Thereafter, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel became a sanctuary. Thousands of people took pilgrimages to visit the Sanctuary, each bearing gifts and devotion to the Blessed Mother. Italians offered wedding rings, earrings, and necklaces to the Blessed Mother; for they believed that it was the Blessed Mother who kept a watchful eye on them in this new world. Soon after, the statue was officially crowned by Papal Nuncio. The coronation of the Statue gave a new impulse to the devotion for the Madonna. One can truly say that there was not one Italian during that generation who did not visit at least once the Sacred Temple on the occasion of the feast during the month of July. People prayed to the Madonna, and miraculously sick children were cured, fatal injuries became scratches and bruises. Italians have prayed to the Madonna in times of despair and the procession from the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel through the streets of East Harlem is a way of honouring the Blessed Mother.
The story of the shrine and devotions and NY Italian immigrants taken from the book 'The Madonna of 115th Street'


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I'm currently working on a project involving tabernacles (tabernacoli) and edicole sacre (street sacramentals) in Florence. My research led me to your post/blog, which I enjoyed very much, and I look forward to reading other posts as well.

Thanks so much again, and please take care,

Louis Munoz.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I accidentally stumbled upon this information while searching for relatives that arrived from Polla, Italy in the late 1800-1900's. There seems to be more of them here than in the motherland! What a surprise. I hope to visit the festival with my family and kids and pray with all the relatives who came and settled here.