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The Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania: A Masterpiece of Tradition and Devotion

The Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania is a significant religious celebration for the Sicilian city. This festival, dedicated to Saint Agatha, the patron saint of Catania, is deeply rooted in the city’s historical and cultural fabric. The culmination of the festival occurs on the 5th of February each year with the procession of the saint’s relics, attracting thousands of devout locals and tourists from around the world.

The Patron Saint of Catania: The Story of Saint Agatha

The story of Saint Agatha, affectionately known as “Santuzza” by the people of Catania, dates back to the 3rd century AD. At just 15 years old, Agatha made a vow to God and donned the red veil of consecrated virgins. However, the proconsul Quinziano became infatuated with her, and when Agatha rejected his advances, he publicly accused her of being a Christian. This accusation led to her prosecution and torture. Saint Agatha died as a martyr on the 5th of February in the year 251 AD.

The Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania: Program and Dates

The Feast of Saint Agatha unfolds over three intense days of celebrations:

  • February 3rd: The Offering of Wax and the “Candelore” Procession – The festivities kick off on February 3rd with the offering of wax and the Candelora procession. High, elaborately decorated baroque candles represent the ancient guilds of the city, parading in a precise order, accompanied by the 18th-century carriage of the ancient Catania Senate.
  • February 4th: The Dawn Mass – From the early morning hours, the streets of the city fill with devotees dressed in the traditional “sacco,” a white tunic with a black beret. Following the Dawn Mass, the relics of Saint Agatha are transferred onto a silver dais adorned with red carnations, symbolizing martyrdom. They are then carried in a procession through the historic sites of Saint Agatha in Catania.
  • February 5th: The Procession of Saint Agatha in Catania – The procession on February 5th extends throughout the night. The dais of Saint Agatha is pulled by long white cords and adorned with white carnations, symbolizing purity. It is followed by thousands of devotees carrying large lit candles, shouting, “Semu tutti devoti tutti? Cettu cettu cettu” (Are we all devout? Certainly), along with tourists from around the world. The participation and grandeur of the festival can be likened to Seville’s Holy Week.

August 17th: The Summer Festival of Saint Agatha

On August 17th, the city celebrates the summer festival of Saint Agatha, which commemorates the return of her relics from Constantinople in 1126. Although less elaborate than the February celebrations, this festival holds great significance. It begins with a morning procession of the relics through the city streets and concludes with a solemn mass and an evening fireworks display.

The Typical Sweets of Saint Agatha

During the festival, you can savor the typical sweets associated with the story of Saint Agatha. Among the most famous are the “minne di Sant’Agata,” small cassatas resembling the shape of the saint’s breasts, which were said to have been cut during her torture. The “olivette di Sant’Agata” are bite-sized almond paste confections colored green, in honor of the miraculous olive tree that is said to have concealed the saint. Along the city’s streets, you can also find vendors selling bomboloni, artisanal flavored candies, and stalls offering various types of nougat.

The Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania is an extraordinary opportunity to immerse oneself in the tradition and devotion of this captivating Sicilian city. Its rich history and engaging celebrations make this festival a true expression of Italian culture and heritage.

Published inTraditions

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