Last night, Catania’s Piazza del Duomo, the main city square, was jammed with onlookers awestruck by the magnificent fireworks display choreographed to symphonic music. Last year, when I witnessed it, my breath was taken away by the magnitude of the presentation. It was unlike any other pyrotechnic display I have seen! Simply stupendous! Today at dawn, February 4, after a solemn mass in the cathedral, the first procession of the reliquary bust of Sant’Agata emerged in the Fercolo, or silver carriage, decorated with pink roses. The extremely heavy carriage is pulled with ropes, by hand, through the city’s neighborhoods by 5,000 men dressed in white tunics and black velvet caps. In the spirit of service and sacrifice, the devotees call and respond: “Semu tutti devoti tutti? Cittadini, Cittadini!” “Certo! Certo!” (“Are we all devoted, all of us? Citizens! Citizens!” “Of course! Of course!”
During today’s procession the Fercolo stops at all of the important locations where Agatha lived and suffered, and there, devotees reflect and pray. Meanwhile, the faithful follow and visit the carriage throughout the arduous, sometimes uphill route, lighting 4-foot-long candles in dedication and asking the saint for protection for the year ahead.