The Sangiuggiari, or devotees of Saint George in Modica, will process the statue of San Giorgio slaying a dragon through the town’s streets on Sunday, May 24. Confetti and fireworks annually mark the start of a winding parade during which faithful men carry the heavy statue on their shoulders–sometimes galloping to simulate the horse on which the saint rides. Those who have been to Modica will know, this is no small feat–the town is all hills!
Modica became committed to San Giorgio in the 11th century, when in 1063 Norman Count Roger (Roger I) invoked the martyr George during the battle of Cerami (a city near Enna). Roger believed that Saint George gave him and his men–who were sorely outnumbered–the power to overcome tens of thousands of Saracen soldiers. The battle marked a tipping point in the push for the Christians to take Sicily from the Muslims.
Saint George is often depicted slaying a dragon, an image that stems from an ancient legend. During his time in Libya, George saved a princess from being sacrificed to a monster that no other man had had the power to kill. The dragon had been tormenting the town, which had been forced to feed it all of its livestock and then children to keep it at bay. Right before slaying the dragon, George made the sign of the cross and invoked the power of Jesus. The image of the serpent monster is considered to be a symbol of the Devil or evil.