A traditional procession from the Madonna della Costa
I am just 185 years old, when the careful and unknown chronicler of the Borea Manuscript (certainly a member or even the head of the family of the Marquises d'Olmo) could write in the family diary, which is still kept today in the ancient palace of Sanremo, these significant words: « Thanks be to Heaven we remained free of it until today's Day 4 Nvb 1835 ».
The subject is missing because at that time it was the only "ciapéto" (Chatting) motif from the banks of the port, to Piazza Bresca and the narrow streets of medieval Sanremo: Cholera.
So 185 years ago in Sanremo there was the danger of a cholera epidemic... At that time this disease is unknown and non-existent for us today, defeated by studies and medicines, was the cause of death and suffering for a large part of the population affected by the epidemic.
In that year numerous cases of cholera had affected the lower Piedmont and the Italian-French Riviera as far as Marseille. The remedies for the infection were all empirical and relied more on good luck than medicine.
Only twenty years later was it possible to understand why and how this disease developed and progressed.
Even then San Remo was already an important city because of the number of inhabitants and the merchant trade in its port. The era of the devastation in Genoa after the revolution of 1753 and the Napoleonic epic had reduced the power of Sanremo were now a memory.
In 1835 cholera struck the Riviera with force and therefore Sanremo was feared of contagion.
As always when man can do nothing he turns to God or to the Blessed Virgin.
In Sanremo the devotion and the cult to the Madonna della Costa was very alive and rooted in the population.
In that year the Mayor invited the traditional celebrations of 15th August in a simple way avoiding the possibility of contagion.
The mentioned " Borea Manuscript " goes on to describe the development and spread of the epidemic as well as to inform about the number of deaths.
In Sanremo the Administration of the Sanctuary (Confraternity of N. S. Assunta in cielo or of the Madonna della Costa) thought to issue a perpetual vow that committed the City to carry out a solemn novena and a city procession with the venerated painting of the Madonna della Costa.
Sanremo, saved from cholera, would remember forever every fifteen years the prodigious event.
In a few words, the conditions were set for celebrating a sort of "Marian Holy Year of Sanremo" every fifteen years. The story of that year tells that Sanremo was saved from cholera and that the City kept its vow.
In 1836 the first fifteen years were celebrated and it was re-proposed with alternating fortunes until the year two thousand, when on the occasion of the great jubilee the fifteen years were brought forward by one year.
We remember some particularly successful fifteen-year celebrations, in particular those of the first decades of the 20th century.
The fifteen years of 1911 and 1926 remained in history because of the extraordinary participation of the people.
The Quindennio of 1986 were solemnly celebrated with a large and active participation of the faithful from all over Sanremo. The painting of the Madonna was brought back to the city after 40 years.
For three days it remained exposed to the veneration of the faithful in the Co-cathedral of S. Siro.
In the year 2000 the celebrations of the Quindennio took place in the month of May and brought forward the deadline by one year to coincide with the Jubilee Year. The venerated effigy left the Sanctuary for a few days and remained exposed to the adoration of the faithful in some of the most important parishes of the city: N.S. del Rosario di Baragallo, N.S. della Mercede di S.Martino, S.Maria degli Angeli, N.S. della Misericordia alla Marina, S.Rocco alla Foce, Annunciazione del Borgo, S.Giuseppe nella Pigna and finally in the Co-cathedral of S.Siro, to return to the Sanctuary with the most solemn and suggestive procession held on May 12th.
The last celebration took place in 2015, at the scheduled deadline and 180 years after the formulation of the city's solemn vow, the Rector of the Sanctuary of N.S. della Costa, Monsignor Vittorio Marteletti had prepared, in addition to many other liturgical initiatives, the Procession for May 9th at 5.00 p.m. with the reception of the venerated Effigy of Our Lady at the Annonary Market, then Procession towards San Siro. Afterwards Rosary - Vespers and Holy Mass celebrated by the Rector himself.
(sources: elaboration from texts by Ernesto Poggi and notes by Aldo Bottini; photos from personal and web archives)