Embracing Little Italy in Clerkenwell

Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - Credit: Archant

Do you know what an Italian sagra is? There’s no need to book a flight to Italy, because you can go to one right here in Islington.

Since the 1880s, the procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Clerkenwell has been an Italian festa Catholic devotees cannot miss, with the latest taking place next Sunday (July 16). It is part of a sagra, a local festival that is dedicated to a Saint Patron, where people can enjoy the street food of that place.

Peter Bertoncini, St Peter’s Italian Church sacristan, said the procession in Clerkenwell is believed to be the first Roman Catholic manifestation after Henri VIII’s reformation. It was Queen Victoria who got a special permission from the local police to allow the procession to take place.

Since then, it has always happened in Clerkenwell, also known as “Little Italy”, where most of the Italians who came between 1860 and 1930 settled.

It was particularly convenient for them to live close to the Italian Parish of St Peter, in Clerkenwell Road. This grade II listed church is the oldest Italian church in London where every Sunday the mass is celebrated in Italian.

“We cherish this tradition as part of Little Italy’s heritage,” Mr Bertoncini said.

Andrea Fulco, Pallottine father at St Peter’s Church, said: “The message we want to communicate is to embrace the Christian faith but this occasion works well to bring everybody together.

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“This year, the procession will feature many floats. Next to the traditional one representing Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our parish is preparing floats of St Anthony, St Calogero and St Lucia.

“Different to previous years, we will especially dedicate this parade to Our Lady of Fatima because this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fatima.”

After the procession, a mass will be celebrated at 5pm. This year, it will be especially presided by Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols.

“I personally asked our Archbishop to deliver the mass, to emphasise how we work in synergy with the Catholic Church in the UK,” said Father Fulco.

The procession starts outside Peter’s Italian Church, 136 Clerkenwell Road, at 3.30pm next Sunday. For more information, call 020 7837 1528 or email info@italianchurch.org.uk