Our Lady of Sorrows

Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, one of the most widely venerated madonnas in all of Italy. 



Our Lady of Sorrows is also called Our Lady of Dolors, the Sorrowful Mother, the Mother of Sorrows, or Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows in English; in Latin, Mater Dolorsa; in Italian, Maria AddolorataMaria Dolorosa, Madonna Addolorata, or simply: L'Addolorata


Heart pierced by one, five, or seven swords; a handkerchief; black clothing; tears

Related Heraldry  

Other common depictions of the Madonna in a state of grieving are the Pietà (Madonna holding the body of Christ) and the Stabat Mater (Madonna standing beneath the cross). 


Unlike most of the Madonnas we have discussed so far on this blog whose cults are centered around a specific pilgrimage site in Southern Italy, Our Lady of Sorrows is a universal figure. In Italy and elsewhere in the world, she is honored as part of Holy Week, particularly on Good Friday when her processions are commonly held. 

The feast of Maria SS Addolorata at Sacred Hearts-St Stephens Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

The feast of Maria SS Addolorata at Sacred Hearts-St Stephens Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

While the English-speaking world tends to view Holy Week through a Christocentric lens, it has been my experience that Italians tend to focus more on the suffering of the Madonna, empathizing strongly with the pain of a mother who loses her child. 

Additionally, she is honored on September 15, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. 

The Seven Sorrows 

The Seven Sorrows are events from the life of the Madonna drawn from the Bible and oral tradition. They are commonly depicted in art. These are: 

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35)
  2. The escape and Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43–45)
  4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.
  5. The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. (John 19:25)
  6. The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57–59)
  7. The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:40–42)

The Seven Sorrows are similar to, but should not be confused with, the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. They can be meditated on in prayer using a chaplet of the Seven Sorrows in a manner similar to the rosary, for example, by praying one Pater Noster and seven Ave Marias for each Sorrow. 

A Song of the Passion

Theatrical reenactments of the Passion are common throughout the Christian world. The following video, filmed by scholar, gentleman, and friend of Italian Folk Magic Alberto Esposito, shows a cantore (singer) from Gargano, Puglia singing a song that was once a part of his village's Good Friday procession: 

While we do not have a transcript of this video, Signor Esposito has transcribed a related song from his source Angela Savastano, who was the last cantore to sing it in procession in Cancello D'Arnone, Campania. Signor Esposito hypothesizes that the song was originally written for the theater, which is why some scenes are narrated in the lyrics and others skipped over. The lacunae are likely to be sections where the actors had more dialog or choreography set to instrumental music. 

The first time I heard these words, I found myself deeply, emotionally moved by the suffering of Christ and his mother. Anna Scognamiglio explained that people in Cancello D'Arnone believe that the most powerful curse is the one uttered by a grieving mother against someone who hurt her child, and that this is the hair-raising power we encounter in the lyrics. 

Mille grazie to Anna Scognamiglio for the English translation. 


Maria parte lu gioverì sante
Sola sulella senza cumpagnia
Sola sulella senza cumpagnia
Maria va piangenne  pe la via
S’affronte ru giureo vestite bianche
Che ai Madre Maria che tante piange
Io ce piange che aggiu  raggione
Che l’aggiu perze lu mie figliuolo
Tu l’hai perze nuie l’avimme lasciate
Vicino a na’ culonna staie legate
Maria comme sentette chella nuvera
All’erte steve e ce cascave nterra
Currite reggina currite a reginella
Aiazate Madre Maria accarda terra
Currette san Giuanne cu’ tanta forza
Aiazave Madre Maria mezza morta
Quanne Maria arrete funche aiazate
Gerusalemme ce rice na’ strada

Quanne po’ a li porte funche arrevate
Metteva la recchia ne le  senchetelle
Metteva la recchia ne le senchetelle
E vere lu figlie  suoie in gran flagelle
Arapeme  figlie arapeme figliuole
Ie so la mamma toie o sventurate
O mamma mamma nun te pozze arapine
Che li giureie m’hannu flagellato
Curona r’oro m’annù luvate
Chelle re spine m’annu poste n’capa
E a beve l’aggie cercate
E ‘cite e fele m’anna purtate
Tu mamma mamma mentre che si’ venute
Ramme na veppete r’acqua e ramme aiuto
Figlie nu’ sacce no’ puzze e no funtane
E manche la via addò me aggia ine
Vattenne pe chella via  re l’Agitte
Ndò stanne chille masti re  cortesie
E chille chiuove che m’anna’ fa male
Facessene chiù stratte e chiù suttile
Facessene cchiù stratte e cchiù suttile
Ch’annà percià le carne re meie gentile
Vuie zingare ch’a venite re l’Agitte
Facite nà carità a Maria vostre
E chille chiuove che ciàvite a fane
Facitele chiù stratte e chiù suttile
Facitele chiù stratte e chiù suttile
Ch’annà percià li carne ro  figlie gentile
Nuie nu’  rispiette a Marie vulimme fane
Tre once re ferre r’aggiungere e nù mancane
Tre once re ferre  r’aggiungere e nù mancane
Ch’annà percià li carne o re’ ru cane
Vuie zingare ch’à venite re l’Egitte
Puzzate stà on’ora afflitte
Puzzate cammenà commà lu sole
Puzzate n’fracetà commà mellone

(anche recitato)
Sunate campane sunate a croce
Lu figlie mie è muorte sopra la croce
Sunate campane sunate campanell     
Che lu figlie mie è muorte in gran flagelle     
Sunate campanelle sunate a anne
Lu figlie mie è muorte re trentatre’ anne


Maria parte il giovedì santo /sola soletta senza compagnia / sola soletta senza compagnia / Maria va piangendo per la via / incontra un giudeo vestito di bianco / “che hai Madre Maria che tanto piangi “ / “ io piango con tanta ragione / perché ho perso il mio figliuolo “ / tu l’hai perduto e noi l’abbiamo (adesso ) lasciato / vicino ad una colonna flagellato “ / Maria coma sentì quella novella / in piedi stava e cascò per terra / Correte , la regina , correte , la reginella / alzate Madre Maria accasciata a terra / accorse san Giovanni con tanta forza / ed alzò Madre Maria mezza morta / Quando Maria da dietro fu rialzata / chiese la strada per Gerusalemme / quando poi arrivò alle porte / metteva l’orecchio nelle fessure / metteva l’orecchio nelle fessure / e vide suo figlio in gran flagello / “aprimi figlio aprimi figliuolo / io sono la mamma tua , o sventurato “ / “ o mamma mamma non ti posso aprire / che gli giudei mi hanno flagellato / la corona d’oro mi hanno levata / e quella di spine mi hanno posta in capo / da bere gli ho cercato / e aceto e fiele mi hanno portato / Tu mamma mamma dal momento che sei venuta / dammi una bevuta d’acqua e dammi aiuto “ / “ figlio non so né pozzi e né fontane / e nemmeno la strada per dove me ne devo andare “ / “ va per la strada dell’Egitto / dove sono signori ( pieni ) di cortesie / e quei chiodi che mi faranno male / che li facessero più stretti e più sottili / li facessero più stretti e più sottili / che devono penetrare le mie carni gentili “ / “voi zingari che venite dall’Egitto / fate una carità a Maria vostra / quei chiodi che dovete fare / fateli più stretti e più sottili / fateli più stretti e più sottili / che devono penetrare le carni del mio (figlio ) gentile “ / “ noi un dispetto a Maria vogliamo fare / ( vogliamo ) aggiungere tre once di ferro e non diminuirle / che devono penetrare le carni del re dei cani “ / “ voi zingari che venite dall’Egitto / possiate stare ogni ora afflitti / possiate camminare come il sole / possiate infradiciarvi come meloni / suonate campane suonate a croce (incrociate ) / il mio figlio è morto sopra la croce / suonate campane suonate campanelle / il mio figlio è morto in grande flagello / suonate campanelle suonate ad anni / il figlio mio è morto di  trentatre anni.


Maria leaves on Maundy Thursday
Alone, all alone without any company
Alone, all alone without any company
Maria goes crying on the road
She means a Judean dressed in white
Why are you crying so much? 
I cry with plenty of reason
Because I have lost my son
You have lost him and we’ve just left him
Tied close to a column
As Maria heard that news, she was standing and she fell on the ground
Saint John rushed with all his friends
Picked up Mother Mary half-dead
When Mary got picked up from behind
Asked her for the road to Jersusalem

When she arrived to the doors
Put her ear to the crack
Put her ear to the crack
And saw her son in great scourging
Open up, son, open up, son
I’m your mother, oh unfortunate
Oh mama, mama, I can’t open
The Judeans have scourged me
They have taken away my golden crown
And the one made of thorns, have put on my head
I asked for something to drink
And vinegar and gall they brought to me
Mama, Mama since you came
Give me a sip of water, help me
Son, I don’t know any wells and no fountains
And not even the road to go away
Take the road to Egypt
Where there are men full of attentions
And those nails that will hurt me
Ask them to make them narrower and thinner
Since they have to penetrate my kind flesh
You gypsies who come from Egypt
Please do a favor for your Maria
And those nails you have to make
Make them narrower and thinner
Make them narrower and thinner
As they have to penetrate the flesh of my gentle son
We want to spite Maria
Three ounces of iron we want to add, and not reduce
Three ounces of iron we want to add, and not reduce
They have to penetrate the flesh of the king of dogs
You gypsies who come from Egypt
May you be cursed every hour
May you walk like the sun
May you rot like a mellon 

Ring bells ring cross
My son has died on the cross
Ring bells ring little bells
As my son died in great scourging
Ring bells ring for years
My son is dead at 33 years