The Festival of St. Agatha is one of the largest Christian celebrations in the world, fairly comparable to such major events as Seville’s Holy Week in Spain, or Cuzco’s Corpus Christi festival in Peru.
It takes place annually from 3 to 5 February and on 17 August. The earlier dates commemorate the martyrdom of the Catanaian saint, while the latter date celebrates the return to Catania of her remains, after these had been transferred to Constantinople by the Byzantine general George Maniaces as war booty, having then remained there for 86 years.
The Festival of Saint Agatha is the most important religious festival of Catania, Sicily. It commemorates the life of what is the city’s patron saint, Agatha of Sicily. The festival culminates in a great all-night procession through the city for which hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents turn out.
The memory of St. Agatha is upheld in numerous festivals across the world. Basques have a tradition of gathering on Saint Agatha’s eve and going around the village. Commemorations are held in Malta, in many villages and towns of Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Greece, Italy and other countries.
One of the most important is the one held annually in Catania, Sicily, the city where the Saint was born and martyred in the 3rd Century AD. She also is considered as patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.