Freo’s faith and pride

IT’S time for Fremantle’s most sacred cultural event – the annual Blessing of the Fleet.

For 69 years the port city’s Italian community has celebrated the start of the fishing season with a festival that affirms their deep faith and strong ties to their former homeland, as well as the huge contribution they’ve made locally.

While the street procession and fireworks display are colourful highlights of the day, it starts with a devout reflection; a Mass and Communion in honour of Our Lady of Martyrs at St Patrick’s Basilica in Adelaide Street.

The tradition dates back to the 12th century, with legend claiming a boat filled with injured and dying Crusaders returned from the Holy Land in 1188 and found a Byzantine-style icon of the Madonna and child floating on the water. They took it to a hospice built in Molfetta.

For generations people in Molfetta would attribute miracles to the icon.

The festival continues at 9.45am with a Solemn Mass celebrated by Archbishop Barry Hickey.

At 2pm the procession leaves the Basilica and winds its way through Fremantle, stopping at St John’s Anglican Church along the way, which is symbolic of how the blessing has become a celebration for all cultures.

At 3.30pm the Archbishop will perform the blessing at Fishing Boat Harbour, with the statues of the Madonna di Capo d’Orlando and the Madonna dei Martiri of Molfetta taken aboard two of the fishing boats. Legend has it that the choice of boats has been fortuitous for the captains, who’ve gone on to enjoy bountiful catches and safe returns.

There’ll be an early fireworks, perfect for the kids to enjoy at 4.30pm before the procession returns to the Basilica at 5pm.

The festival winds up with the big fireworks display at 8pm, with music and great food surrounding Fishing Boat Harbour.

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