Festa di Santa Rosalia 2023 will take place from Monday, July 10, to Saturday, July 15, 2023, in the beautiful city of Palermo.
The religious feast, one of the most important in Sicily, was officially recognized as an intangible heritage of Italy by the Central Institute for Demo-Ethno-Anthropology (Istituto Centrale per la Demo-Etno-Antropologia).
The feast is dedicated to Saint Rosalia, also called La Santuzza (Little Saint) or Rusulia (in Sicilian dialect), the patron saint of Palermo, and it commemorates the miraculous appearances of the Saint from 1624, when the city was hit by plague.
Every year, the festival lasts six days, with the first three days being reserved for the preparation of the great procession held on the evening of July 14. The 2023 edition will be the 399 edition of the event.
Santa Rosalia was born of a Norman noble family that claimed descent from Charlemagne. She lived in the last years of her life as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died alone in 1166.
According to legend, 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. Muhammad Calavà, the captain of the ship, and some of the crew, were suspected of being sick. Shortly after, the disease, carried by rats, spread rapidly throughout the city.
Girolama La Gattuta, a 47-year-old woman 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 miraculously recovered, without making the trip to the mountain, but she fell ill again on May 7, 1624, when the plague hit the city.
A few days later, Girolama climbed Monte 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 mountain, 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, organised a procession through the city, carrying the relics of the Saint. In a few days, the city was freed from the plague.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
The procession, led by the Archbishop and the Mayor of Palermo, starts on the evening of July 14 in front of the Cathedral of Palermo, and ends near the sea, culminating with an impressive firework display.
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.
The feast continues the next day, July 15, with the solemn procession of the relics of the Saint, contained inside a silver urn.
During the feast, you can buy food that is part of the popular tradition of the city: pasta with sardines, babbaluci (snails boiled with garlic), sfincione (a thick Sicilian pizza), boiled octopus and watermelon.
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