Festa di Sant’Agata 2023 will take place between 3 and 5 February, 2023, in Catania. The celebration is dedicated to Saint Agatha, the patron saint of the city, who was martyred in the year 251 AD, during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius.
The saint is celebrated in Catania twice a year – the feast held in February commemorates the martyrdom of the Saint, while the Summer Feast of Saint Agatha, held on August 17, celebrates the return of her remains to Catania, after 86 years in which the relics were kept in Constantinople.
In February, around one million people come from all over Sicily to attend the feast, which is comparable with the Holy Week in Seville, Spain, or the Feast of Corpus Domini in Cuzco, Peru. For three days, the city forgets about everyday things to focus on the celebration, a mixture of devotion and folklore.
Born in Catania in 231, Agata consecrated her life to the Christian religion. At the age of 15, she made a vow of virginity and rejected the amorous proposals of the Roman prefect Quintianus, who tried numerous times to seduce her. After her refusal, Quintianus persecuted her as a Christian, and had her martyred on February 5, 251.
The first celebration of Sant’Agata probably took place on August 17, 1126, when the remains of the Saint, stolen in 1040, were brought back to Catania from Constantinople by two soldiers, Gilberto and Goselino.
At the beginning, the celebrations were mostly liturgical in nature and took place inside the Cathedral of Catania. This was demonstrated indirectly by what happened on February 4, 1169, when a tremendous earthquake razed the city of Catania to the ground, burying the faithful people gathered inside the Cathedral for the celebration of Sant’Agata.
Later, the religious celebration was accompanied by a popular feast, desired by both the Municipality and the population. Therefore, in addition to the procession of Saint Agatha, events of a different nature were held to entertain the faithful who came from all over Sicily.
Until 1692, the festival was held on a single day, on February 4th. Beginning with 1712, the event took place over two days, on 4 and 5 February. Today, the feast lasts for 3 days.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
February 3, Friday: On this day, around noon, the feast begins with a solemn procession dedicated to the wax offerings. From the Church of Sant’Agata alla Fornace to the Cathedral of Catania, the procession cuts through a very large crowd, being accompanied by 12 giant candles known as candelore.
Every candelora is carried on a golden carriage decorated with flags, statues and dozens of smaller candles. The first day of the feast ends in the evening, with a fireworks display in the main square of the city, Piazza del Duomo.
February 4, Saturday: The second day of the feast is the most exciting day, because the city meets its patron saint. The remains of Saint Agatha, which are kept in the Cathedral, are placed in a silver palanquin named fercolo, weighing almost 3 tons, and carried in procession throughout the city. The procession lasts the whole day.
February 5, Sunday: On the third day, at sunset, the second part of the procession begins, which winds along the streets of the historical center of Catania. The most awaited moment is the ascent of San Giuliano, which due to the slope is the most dangerous part of the whole procession. It represents a test of courage for the participants. At dawn, on 6 February, the fercolo reaches Via Crociferi and the festivities end.
Find a place to stay