Ever since I read “The Stone Boudoir” by Theresa Maggio, I’ve dreamed of going to la Festa di Sant’Agata in Catania. Maggio describes in detail the rituals of the event that is a combination of cultish religious devotion, prayer, folklore, fireworks, and culinary delights. The celebration is two nights and two days long, representing the amount of time that the saint was tortured by the Roman Prefect Quintianus. The first evening of the feast, February 3, features the procession of massive candelabras, or candelore, that are carried by the city’s various guilds of butchers, bakers, carpenters, stonemasons, fishermen… you get the idea. The candelore are gilded, intricately decorated, and heavy–they require between 4 and 12 men to carry them. On February 4, the two-day solemn procession begins after a sunrise mass at the Duomo (main Cathedral). The statue of the Saint, which is more like a massive, silver and gold decorated jewelry box topped with the bust of a crowned, young woman (It holds the martyr’s relics inside.), is exhibited on a silver carriage that is pulled by hand by five thousand men dressed in white tunics and black velvet caps through the city’s neighborhoods. Along with the procession, devotees carry approximately 4-foot-tall candles that drip wax onto the streets… There’s still more, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow.
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