Saint Agatha is also known as Agatha of Sicily and is the patron saint of Catania. Every year she is celebrated on February 5th and is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian tradition. If you want to know more, read the article on Sicilian Secrets’ blog.
Saint Agatha and fire. Saint Agatha and Catania. What’s the connection between this saint and Sicily? She’s the patron saint of Catania and is celebrated on February 5th. Why? In 252, the year after her death, Mount Etna was threatening the city with a potential disruptive eruption that actually had already destroyed some small towns out of Catania. Citizens – of course – were seriously worried and scared, so they went to the cathedral, took the veil of Saint Agatha and brought it toward the lava flow that suddenly had stopped. It happened on February 5th, the same day in which the young martyr died. Since that moment, people have continued praying her to be protected against fire and it seems – according to the tradition – that between 252 and 1886, Catania was saved more than 15 times by the strength of volcano.
Saint Agatha: something more about her
She protects victims of a sexual assault, women who suffers from breast cancer, wet nurses and bellfounders. She’s venerated all around the world, for example in Switzerland she’s considered the patron saint of fire corps and even in Malta, in Brazil, in France and in San Marino is claimed as the patroness of Mdina, Pesqueira and Le Fournet.
Catania and Saint Agatha
In Catania, people celebrate Saint Agatha from February 3rd to the 5th. It’s a huge celebration, one of the most famous in the world and for sure the major festival in Sicily. Visitors come on purpose to take part in it and – at the same time – explore the city. Do you know that the Cathedral of the city is dedicated to her? The streets are decorated with many lights and key elements of this feast day are the so-called ‘cannalori’, some gilded wooden candle holders that represent the corporations of arts and crafts.
During the procession, people who are devoted to Saint Agatha carry the reliquary around the city dressed in a sort of uniform that consists of a tunic, a black velvet cap, gloves and a handkerchief that can be waved in honor of the saint.
According to the common iconography, Saint Agatha is represented with her cut out breast on a small plate. This is the cruel way in which she was tortured before to die. Nowadays, if you visit Catania during the feast day, you can try a classic Sicilian specialty called ‘Minne di Vergine’ (Breast of the Virgin), they are some sweets iced and topped with a cherry.
This is a moment that embraces culture, folklore and religion. Why don’t you come to Sicily to live it in person? Discover more about special tours (8 and 5 days) by Dimensione Sicilia, it can be the best way to enjoy your winter break on the island! Join us 😊