Feast of Saint Agatha

Share
  • Religious holiday
  • Catania

02/03/2020 - 02/05/2020

Every year on 3rd, 4th and 5th February Catania celebrates Agatha, the Patron Saint of the town,  with a religious feast considered to be one of most important in the world, like the Semana Santa in Seville and the Corpus Domini of Cuzco in Peru. Mix of faith and folklore, it is an event that involves thousands of faithful and attracts up to a million people to the city.

Martyred in 251, at the time of persecution against Christians, Saint Agatha is honored with solemn celebrations and pyrotechnic shows. Historical parades and processions take place along the streets illuminated by spectacular lights, with renewing ancient rituals in the baroque city.

On 3rd February a traditional appointment takes place. The whole city offers wax to the Saint and, from Piazza Duomo to Piazza Stesicoro, civil, religious and military authorities parade in a procession of people in historical costume, together with two sedans of the eighteenth century (including the "carriage of the Senate"), and twelve "candelore" (imposing carved and gilded wooden structures), which symbolically represent the wax offered to the Saint by the guilds of arts and crafts. Do not miss the performance of traditional hymns in honor of the Saint and the fireworks at rhythm of music, which take place in the evening in the crowded Piazza Duomo, the heart of the city. 

On 4th and 5th February the main streets of the historic center become the scene of the solemn procession of  the reliquary bust of the Saint (valuable silver work of 1376, completely covered with the jewels offered by the devotees during the centuries) and of her remains. The Saint is placed on an imposing silver palanquin that reaches 30 quintals in weight and carried on, through long cords, by thousands of devotees wearing the traditional white "sack" (a sort of penitential tunic), black velvet cap and white gloves, which move in small steps in the crowd shouting "Citizens, are we all devotees? Viva Saint Agatha".

The most exciting moments of the festival include the opening of the Cathedral's chapel (which keeps the bust of the Saint throughout the year), during which the City embraces her beloved Patroness; the engaging rise of the palanquin along the steep via di Sangiuliano, and the sweet songs of the cloistered nuns of the convent of San Benedetto in via Crociferi, the most fascinating baroque street in the city.

The procession of the palanquin is preceded by the “candelore”, carried on the shoulders of four to twelve men, depending on their size (the heaviest one, the bakers candelora, weighs 1200 kilos), which move with the rhythmic gait called "annacata" , and hundreds of men and women who, for hours on end, carry large waxes on their shoulders, as an act of thanksgiving and devotion or as a request for a grace.

All around, among the crowded streets, there is a blaze of lights, colors and folklore. Living this festival that reveals the soul of the city, is a great emotion that can hardly be forgotten.