'Important day': Crowds flock to historic procession after two-year hiatus

St Peter's Italian Church held its annual procession Our Lady of Mount Carmel after a two-year break

St Peter's Italian Church held its annual procession Our Lady of Mount Carmel after a two-year break - Credit: St Peter's Italian Church

Elaborately decorated floats and walking tableaux delighted onlookers during the procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel last Sunday (July 17) in Clerkenwell.  

After a two-year hiatus caused by Covid, Islington's St Peter’s Italian Church continued its 130-year tradition of celebrating the religious festival this summer. 

Residents and visitors lined the streets to watch the procession, which included Jesus carrying the cross, a float depicting the "Holy Family" and even a marching band.  

A decorated float showing the 'Holy House' during Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession

A decorated float showing the 'Holy Family' during Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession - Credit: St Peter's Italian Church

Modesto Tondelli, parish safeguarding representative at St Peter’s Italian Church, said: “Even if the heat, the congestion charge and some nervousness to be in a crowd affected the numbers watching, it was an important day for all the community across London to be able to gather and celebrate our heritage in a public way for the first time since 2019.  

“It was wonderful to be able to be involved in what our ancestors started in the 1880s.” 

The procession began at St Peter’s Church on Clerkenwell Road and looped around the block through Leather Lane, St Cross Street and Saffron Hill. 

The origin of the procession in London dates back to the period between 1850 and 1930, when a community of Italian immigrants settled in Clerkenwell.  

Participants of St Peter's Church religious procession

Participants of St Peter's Italian Church religious procession in Clerkenwell - Credit: St Peter's Italian Church

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It quickly became known as Little Italy or simply The Hill and in 1863, St Peter's Church was consecrated in the centre of the area. 

As the community grew in Clerkenwell, the immigrants brought many traditions from their native country.

One of them was the procession in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, believed to be the first outdoor manifestation of Roman Catholicism since the Reformation.

Over 130 years ago the first procession was held in London with permission granted by Queen Victoria.   

 Parish priest Father Andrea Fulco (l.) and Father Giuseppe De Caro during St Peter's procession

Parish priest Father Andrea Fulco (l) and Father Giuseppe De Caro during St Peter's procession - Credit: St Peter's Italian Church

Over the years the event developed and transformed, with walking tableaux appearing after World War Two and decorated floats being introduced in the 1950s.  

The event today is visited by many Italian communities inside and outside of London.  

The procession last Sunday was followed by the street festival Sagra in Warne Street, where friends and family celebrated together with food, drinks and activities. 

A walking tableaux during St Peter's Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession

A walking tableaux during St Peter's Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession - Credit: St Peter's Italian Church