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The feast is dedicated to Saint Rosalia, also known as La Santuzza (Little Saint), the patron saint of Palermo, and it commemorates the miraculous appearances of the Saint from 1624, when Palermo was hit by plague.
In 1624, Emanuel Filibert of Savoy, the Viceroy of Sicily, who resided in the city, brought to the port of Palermo a ship from Tunis, containing many gifts. The captain of the ship, Muhammad Calavà, and a part of the crew, were suspected of being sick. Shortly after, the disease, carried by rats, spread rapidly throughout the city.
A 47-year-old woman, Girolama La Gattuta, suffering of strong fever at the Hospital of Palermo, had an angel vision. The angel told her to go to the Mount Pellegrino and pray. Three days later, Girolama recovered miraculously without going to Mount Pellegrino, but she fell ill again on May 7, 1624, when the plague hit the city.
A few days later, Girolama climbed the Mount Pellegrino, drank some clear water that dripped from the walls of a cave, and miraculously healed. On this occasion, Girolama saw Santa Rosalia, who told her to dig in the cave for a treasure. On July 15, 1624, in the place indicated by Girolama, the bones of a woman were found. The bones were cleaned and brought to Palermo.
In February, 1625, on the same Mount Pellegrino, Santa Rosalia appeard to a hunter named Vincenzo Bonello. The hunter wanted to commit suicide after he lost his wife to the plague. The Saint told him that only if her remains will be carried through the streets of Palermo in a procession, the city will get rid of the plague.
When he heard that, Giannettino Doria, the Archbishop of Palermo, made a procession through the city, carrying the relics of the Saint. In a few days, the city was freed from the plague.
PROGRAM OF THE EVENT
The procession will start on the night of July 14th from the Cathedral of Palermo, reaching Foro Italico, near the sea, culminating with an impressive fireworks display. The Archbishop and the Mayor of Palermo will lead the procession.
The central point of the procession is a vessel-shaped chariot, built different every year, carrying the Statue of Saint Rosalia. The chariot is ten meters high and almost as long, decorated with roses and angels, and pulled by oxen.
During the feast, on the streets of Palermo, you can find food that is part of the popular tradition of the city: pasta with sardines, babbaluci (boiled snails with garlic), sfincione (a thick Sicilian pizza), boiled octopus and watermelon.