The History & Details Of Our Lady of Good Voyage In Gloucester, MA
Cape Ann is well known for its rich nautical history. Almost everywhere that you go in Rockport, Gloucester, Essex, and Manchester you will find signs of its seafaring roots. From Motif #1 in Rockport to the shipbuilding museum in Essex and the working seaport in Gloucester, it’s clear that the foundation of Cape Ann is its fishing industry.
Therefore, it’s only natural that over time these roots would extend and intertwine with the local culture, cuisine, and even religion. Today, we are going to take a closer look at a Gloucester icon, the Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.
The Our Lady of Good Voyage Church is a Roman Catholic church located in downtown Gloucester. The church was built for the large Gloucester Portuguese community which began immigrating to the Gloucester area in the early 1800’s to work in the thriving local fishing industry.
This population of fishermen came from the Azores, a mountainous archipelago off the coast of Portugal that consists of 9 volcanic islands. Pictured below, the region is absolutely stunning. By the late 1800’s there were an estimated 200 Portuguese families living in Gloucester, making it the largest Portuguese colony on the east coast.
The first church was built in 1892 to serve the Portuguese immigrant population, but ultimately burned in 1914. A new church was built to resemble the Santa Maria Madalena church in the Azorean community of Madalena on the island of Pico.
Ok so this story of Madonna does not involve striking any poses, dating Dennis Rodman or pushing the bounds of plastic surgery. No this is about the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady of Good Voyage is a title that was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in seafaring communities in Spain and Portugal. She is the patron saint of sailors.
In Ericeira, Portugal they celebrate the Feast of The Assumption of Mary where the fishing fleet is blessed and there is a large procession of boats.
The reason that the Madonna is such an important icon in the fishing community goes back to the story of fishermen who were stranded in the Atlantic. According to the story, the fishermen broke their oars and were unable to get back to shore. Desperate, the fisherman sought help from the Madonna and an apparition appeared, the sea miraculously calmed, and they were able to get back home safely.
At the top of the Our Lady of Good Voyage Church is a statue of Mary holding a boat in her left hand, a symbol of a safe voyage. In 1922 Carillon bells were added to the church. They were actually cast by John Taylor and Company – which is the same English foundry that cast Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell. This is one of the oldest full sets of Carillon bells in the country.
In 1990 Our Lady of Good Voyage Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. If you want a close up view of the statue, you should head over to Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. They have the original Our Lady of Good Voyage on display and you can get up close and personal with this piece of Cape Ann history.
Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
142 Prospect Street
Glocuester, MA 01930