The Italian Festival of the Healing Saints Cosmas and Damian

 

Who We Are

The Society of Saints Cosmas & Damian is an Italian/American organization made up of approximately 100 individuals. The Society was formed in 1926, during a period of heavy immigration to this country by many people of Europe.

A large group of immigrants from the beautiful coastal city of Gaeta, Italy, settled in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Hungry to fit into their new surroundings, most of these people were eager to learn a new language and a new way of life, which would most certainly provide a better future for their children. Most worked in the local meat packing industry, a far reach from their native fishing or farming professions. 

A sense of community belonging and cohesion was brought about in many ways for these people, but mainly through religion. A local Italian Roman Catholic Church was opened by the Archdiocese of Boston to service this group, but many longed for the traditions which were left behind, the religious festivals in particular.

In response to this longing, a small group of women began to meet periodically to pray to the patron Saints of their beloved city of Gaeta, Saints Cosmas & Damian. The group grew and it became necessary to meet monthly in local function facilities. Soon thereafter a group of men organized and sent to their homeland for life-sized images of their patron Saints. When the statues arrived, the organization began a yearly festival in honor of these beloved Saints. The year was 1926.

In the 1940's, the women members, led by Marietta Colarutolo, purchased a parcel of land on Porter Street in East Cambridge and funded the building of a chapel for the statues. The building would house the Saints and serve as a meeting place for monthly meetings. The feast became a major event in the lives of these founding members, as well as in the lives of their families.

Over the years, much has changed. "The old neighborhood", has been transformed as the older generations pass on, and the young move to the suburbs. Religion and devotion, as we now know them, are a far fetch from what our grandparents knew, and backyard tomato gardens have been replaced with lush lawns. 

The feast lives on in its original form however. The location of the festival itself has moved by a block or two, but the tradition, as it was intended, lives on in the hearts of the descendants of those who began the festival. The families all return to, "The old neighborhood", for this yearly reunion.
The present members of this organization are evermore involved in organizing the feast, and they  represent all ages. Many represent the 5th generation of membership for their families. Most work tirelessly to carry on the tradition, and preserve the prominent presence of the Society in our local community. The Society is represented by various members at all local happenings.

The chapel underwent a major renovation in 1995, and the men's and women's Societies have now joined to be known as one large organization, "The Society of Saints Cosmas & Damian of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts". Membership is at an all-time high.

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"Our Finest Hour"

In 1988 the Smithsonian Institute asked our Society to recreate its festival on, "The Mall", which spans between our nation's Capitol Building, and The Washington Monument.  The festival lasted 2 days and took place over the July 4th holiday.  This invitation was quite an honor for our organization, and the event was one that will be talked about for generations. Over 3 million people were present for this spectacular celebration !

 

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(Click on image to enlarge)

Group photo, Washington D.C., 1987 Father Anthony cutting La Tiella Procession to Church
Annie Amendola with documents from The Smithsonian Inst. Annie Amendola and Cardinal Law Group Photo with WGBH's Maryann Esposito

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"Viva Saints Cosmas & Damian"

"Viva I Santi Medici"

"Viva La Festa"

 

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(music on this page: "Mazurka")

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