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Here is one of the most important patronal festivals in Europe
The celebrations dedicated to the patron saint of each town are held every year in Italian cities. One of the oldest and most fascinating is the Festa of Sant’Agata which takes place from the 3rd to the 5th of February. This is one of the most beautiful festivals in the world. In fact, it can be compared to the Holy Week which takes place in the Spanish city of Seville and the Corpus Domini of Cuzco in Peru. Italian Traditions will guide you on the discovery of this incredible festival that takes place every year in the Sicilian city. Here we will talk about the procession and the main traditional rites dedicated to the saint. Finally, we will present the cakes that are traditionally prepared on the occasion of the festa.
What is the festa of Sant’Agata?
The Festa of Sant’Agata is the most important religious festival held annually in the Sicilian city of Catania. The saint is celebrated three times during the year, although in different ways, with every occasion making it one of the
The first celebration takes place from 3rd to 5th February and is dedicated to the martyrdom of the saint of Catania, theme repeated on the day of February 12th. In the August event, the celebration concerns the return of the remains of Sant’Agata to Catania after they had been brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace
The first day of the Festa of Sant’Agata is dedicated to the offering of candles. This is an evocative popular custom. The most exciting day is that of February 4th as it is the first meeting of the saint with the city. The streets of Catania are filled with people from the early hours of the day. These devotees wear the traditional sack that consists of a long white robe reaching the ankles. They also have a black velvet cap, white gloves and a white handkerchief. This is the traditional night clothing that the Catanese wore in 1126 when they ran to meet the relics of the Saint brought back to Catania from Constantinople.
To open the iron gate that protects the relics today in the cathedral, three keys are necessary. The first is guarded by the Treasurer, the second by the Master of ceremonies and the third by the prior of the cathedral. After the celebration of the mass, the relics are carried in procession through the city streets, retracing the places that witnessed the martyrdom of the saint and bringing back to memory the vicissitudes of the history of Sant’Agata and how they intertwined with those of the Sicilian city.
The procession is repeated even the next day. It starts at sunset and goes through the streets of the town for most of the day. The most anticipated moment of the procession is when it reaches via San Giuliano which, because of the slope, represents the most dangerous point of the route
The traditional cakes of the festa
During the festa of Sant’Agata various traditional cakes are prepared. The most famous recipes are the Cassateddi Sant’Agata and the Olivette. These cakes are the symbol of the Saint of Catania. The former represents the breasts that have been torn from the saint while the others are related to the legend of the saint.
Every Italian city has its patron saint that is celebrated even today. This custom is much more widespread in the regions of southern Italy where these events attract millions of visitors and faithful. If you want to discover other traditional customs of the Italian regions we recommend reading this article too. Now that you know about the festa of Sant’Agata you just have to take part.