Attending the Feast of Sant’Alfio in Lentini last week during Photography in Sicily was very moving. The annual ritual they practice is called “I Nudi,” the nudes. Devotees are barefoot and only dressed in shorts (women wear shirts) carrying flowers in one hand and holding their other hand at their backs. In this posture, they start at the town’s mother church and follow a course through the streets, making several roundtrips, as many as “il nudo” seems fit, in order to illustrate his/her reverence to Alfio and his bothers.
Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino were early Christians when, under Roman law, Christianity was illegal. As punishment for their religious practice, the brothers were condemned not only to various tortures (including Alfio losing his tongue), but to public humiliation which meant traveling from their native Puglia to Sicily, where they were publicly tried, stripped naked, shamed, and tortured in the middle of Lentini’s public square, where they died from their injuries because they continued to stay faithful to Christianity throughout their ordeals.
Feasts such as this, which show a grand display of faith, are fascinating and moving to witness.