Festa di Sant’Agata (Feast of Saint Agatha) is the most important religious festival of Catania and one of the most important in Sicily and throughout Italy. The feast is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Agatha, who was martyred during the persecution of Decius, around the year 251 AD.
The feast takes place every year on two occasions. The one held between 3 and 5 February commemorates the martyrdom of the Saint, while the Summer Feast of Saint Agatha, held on 17 August, 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 can be compared to the Holy Week in Seville or the Feast of Corpus Domini in Cuzco, Peru. For three days, the city forgets everything to focus on the party, a mixture of devotion and folklore.
On February 3rd, 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 called 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 firework display in the main square of the city, Piazza Duomo.
The second day, February 4th, is the most exciting day, because the city meets its patron saint. The remains of Saint Agatha, that are kept in the Cathedral, are placed in a silver palanquin named fercolo, weighing almost 3 tons, and carried in procession through the city. The procession lasts the whole day.
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.
FESTA DI SANT’AGATA 2019 will take place, as usual, between 3 and 5 February. Although Catania is very crowded during these three days, the celebration must be seen at least once in a lifetime. So, if you happen to be in Sicily at that time, head for Catania without thinking twice.