Feasts, and how Sicilians celebrate them always inspire me. I recommend you plan your dates around such an event. For example, today I’m envious of our clients who are in Acireale to experience the fervor; for annually on January 20, the town in the province of Catania recognizes one of its patrons, Saint Sebastian, with a solemn procession.
From the early hours of the morning, the basilica, pictured, is crowded with devotees as they anticipate the opening of the chapel that holds the 17th century statue representing early-Christian martyr. At 11 AM, the piazza in front of the basilica is packed with people waiting for the fercolo, the carriage carrying the Saint’s relics and statue, to exit the church. The spectacle of brave devotees pulling the heavy carriage at high-speed down steep, narrow stairs will take your breath away. Such displays of strength and some might say, reckless action, are a way of for devotees to illustrate their understanding of the harms-way that their patron put himself in in order to display his devotion to Christ.
The fercolo is then moved throughout the town by scores of men in procession at dizzying paces. They pass by Piazza Marconi, Piazza Roma, Corso Umberto and more. At 4 PM, there is a sacred stop in front of the old train station of Acireale to greet the passing of a train, reminiscent of a solemn event during World War I.
At 10 PM, there is a fireworks display before the devotees return the statue to the basilica around midnight.
Viva San Sebastiano!