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Saint Agata - Catania PDF Print E-mail

Saint Agatha of Sicily (died traditionally 251) is a Christian saint. Her memorial is on 5 February. Agatha was born in Catania, Sicily, and she was martyred in approximately 251. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

According to Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda Aurea of ca. 1288, having dedicated her virginity to God, Agatha, rich and noble rejected the amorous advances of the low-born Roman prefect, Quintianus; she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. She was given to Aphrodisia, the keeper of a brothel, and her nine daughters, but in response to their threats and entreaties to sacrifice to the idols and submit to Quintianus, she responded:

My courage and my thought be so firmly founded upon the firm stone of Jesus Christ, that for no pain it may not be changed; your words be but wind, your promises be but rain, and your menaces be as rivers that pass, and how well that all these things hurtle at the foundement of my courage, yet for that it shall not move.

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"Our Lady of the Letter" is one of the names used by the Catholic religion in the veneration of Mary, Mother of Jesus The tradition, using a statement of historical Lucio Flavio Destro, said that St. Paolo, arrived at Messina to preach the Gospel, found the people willing to leave converted. Soon, many people accepted the invitation to convert to Christianity and, in 42, when Paul was ready to return to Palestine, some of the inhabitants of Messina asked to accompany him to know Our Lady. So a delegation went in Palestine with a letter, in which many citizens who converted to Christianity, professed their faith and seek the protection of Mary. Maria received them and sent back a letter, written in Hebrew, rolled and tied with a lock of her hair. The delegation returned to Messina on September 8, 42 bringing the important missive : Mary praised their faith , said to appreciate their devotion and assured them his perpetual protection. So terminates the letter: "Vos et Ipsam civitatem benedicimus", that is "I bless you and your city". The text is now written in large letters at the base of the stele of Madonna in the harbor of Messina. From that year, the city of Messina celebrates Our Lay of the Letter on June 3, with a crowded procession of the silver "fercolo" of Our Lady and on August 15, with the procession of the colossal "Vara", dragged by hundreds of faithful dressed in white, with the participation of hundreds of thousands of faithful and curious people from all over Europe. In Messina, on June 3, will be celebrated the religious feast. In the morning, takes place a solemn celebration presided by archbishop with the participation of all religious and chivalric orders. In the afternoon, the simulacrum representing the Madonna of the letter, is carried in procession, work of the master Lio Gangeri dating from the nineteenth century. The moat solemn feast is that of the Assumption which takes place on August 13 to 15, attended by thousands of faithful and tourists. On August 14, two huge statues of wood and cardboard march in the streets of Messina, representing respectively "U Giganti" and "A Gigantissa" (The Giants). On August 15, is celebrated the feast of the Assumption. During the day, a "vara" representing the Assumption into heaven of the Virgin Mary, dating back to 1535, is carried in procession. This Construction is nothing more than a complex gimmick composed of many gears and leaning on a strain of very sturdy oak. All devotees actively participate to the procession clapping and shouting "Long live to Maria". As soon as the Vara comes to the cathedral, it takes place a magnificent show of fireworks that are fired from small boats near the statue of Madonna in the harbor of Messina. Some parts of this article are from Wikipedia

She attacked the Roman cult images as idols with philosophical arguments that paralleled Arnobius:


And S. Agatha answered that they were no gods, but were devils that were in the idols made of marble and of wood, and overgilt. Quintianus said: Choose one of two; or do sacrifice to our gods, or thou shalt suffer pain and torments. S. Agatha said: Thou sayst that they be gods because thy wife was such a one as was Venus, thy goddess, and thou thyself as Jupiter, which was a homicide and evil. Quintianus said: It appeareth well that thou wilt suffer torments, in that thou sayst to me villainy. S. Agatha said: I marvel much that so wise a man is become such a fool, that thou sayest of them to be thy gods, whose life thou ne thy wife will follow. If they be good I would that thy life were like unto theirs; and if thou refusest their life, then art thou of one accord with me. Say then that they be evil and so foul, and forsake their living, and be not of such life as thy gods were.

Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. An apparition of Saint Peter cured her.

After further dramatic confrontations with Quintianus, represented in a sequence of dialogues in her passio that document her fortitude and steadfast devotion, her scorned admirer eventually sentenced her to death by being rolled naked on a bed of live coals, "and anon the ground where the holy virgin was rolled on, began to tremble like an earthquake, and a part of the wall fell down upon Silvain, counsellor of Quintianus, and upon Fastion his friend, by whose counsel she had been so tormented."

Saint Agatha died in prison, according to the Legenda Aurea in "the year of our Lord two hundred and fifty-three in the time of Decius, the emperor of Rome."

The Feast of Saint Agatha is the most important religious feast in the city of Catania and is celebrated in honor of the patron saint of the city. It is held every year on February 3 to 5 and 17 August. The first date is that of the martyrdom of the saint, while the date of August, recalls the return of his remains in Catania after they were stolen and brought to Constantinople by the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace as spoils of war and where they remained for 86 years.

Is very old tradition of the "cannalore". In principle, perhaps already in the fifteenth century, were more than 30 Carnival floats. Today are eleven and represent the corporations of arts and crafts of the city. These are large wooden buildings richly carved and gilded on the surface, built, generally, in the style of Sicilian Baroque, and containing a large candle in the center. These huge candles on the weight ranging between 400 and 900 kilograms, are brought to the shoulder, depending on the weight, of a group of 4 to 12 men, which advances with a very characteristic gait called "a 'nnacata". The "cannalore", as well as precede the procession of St. Agata on February 4 and 5, already 10 days before starting to drive around the city bringing in the shops of members of the guild which they belong to, accompanied by a band playing cheerful marches.

The "fercolo" of St. Agatha is a small temple made in silver covering a wooden frame, richly worked, carrying the reliquary bust of the saint and the chest made in silver, where are stored all the relics of Saint Agatha. Built in 1518, in Renaissance style, is finely engraved and decorated, on the roof cover, with twelve statues of the apostles. It was built by the goldsmith Vincenzo Archifel working in Catania from 1486 to 1533. The fercolo, largely restored after the bombing during the war, is made of solid silver. It moves on solid rubber wheels and is pulled by two cords more than 200 meters long, by citizens who wear the distinctive white dress called "saccu".

The relics contained in the chest are constituted by the two arms with hands, the two legs with feet, by two femurs and breast in addition to the holy veil.

The bust of the saint, all in silver, was created in the 1376 and also contains the relics of Saint Agatha. In fact, in the head, covered with a crown given by the English King Richard the Lionheart, was inserted the skull of the saint of Catania, while in the bust is inserted the rib cage. The bust was created by the artist Giovanni di Bartolo.

Devotees pulling the fercolo, wear a white cotton robe called "saccu", a black hat of velvet called "scuzzetta", a white cord around the waist, white gloves and a handkerchief, also white, which is stirred to cry: "Semu tutti divoti tutti, cettu cettu, cittadini, viva San'Aita" (
we are all devotees, certainly, citizens, long live to Saint Agata).

On 3 February, starts the religious celebrations with the procession of the supply of wax to Saint Agata, formerly known as the procession of luminaries. The celebrations on February 4, beginning with the mass of the dawn. It is the first religious ceremony in honor of the saint. With the church invaded by faithful with white coats, we are witnessing the first exit of the statue and the casket from the vault where they are stored. The scene is very touching and evocative. At the end of the Mass, the "fercolo", preceded by the "cannalore" begins the external tour of the city. On reaching the Church of Saint Agatha la Vetere, the first cathedral of Catania, the procession will stop here for a few hours. Towards evening, after a small mass in the Church of Saint Agatha la Vetere, resumes the external tour of the city to return to the cathedral at early morning. Here begins the spectacular fireworks. On the 4th of February, in the afternoon, around eighteen, begins the tour the inside the city. The most heartfelt part of the procession is th "cchianata i Sangiulianu" (climb of Saint Giuliano). The "fercolo" pulled, running, by the citizens, reaches the top of the climb between two wings of a jubilant crowd. Due to Crociferi's street, the most beautiful baroque street of Catania, the "fercolo" is heading towards the cathedral. It made the final stop in front of the convent of Benedictine nuns, from behind the grilles of their monastery, they intone songs to Saint Agata. So when the sun is rising, Saint Agata is back to the cathedral, greeted by a large fireworks show.

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