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St. Agatha’s Festival in Catania

St. Agatha’s Festival in Catania is the most interesting event on Sicily. It is held on the 5th of February, the day of St. Agatha, who is the patroness of Catania. On the 5th of February the ritual procession is organized which is considered to be the second largest religious procession in the world. The average amount of people taking part in the procession is one million. They follow St. Agatha’s statue, which is the main symbol of the Festival, along the streets of Catania.

St. Agatha’s Festival takes three days: from the third of February till the fifth of February. Each day is very special. The first day is the opening ceremony of the festival during which the officials of the local authority take part in the procession bearing coats of arms and flags of Catania city and the province. The procession starts from St. Agatha Church, which is one of the most beautiful buildings there.

The night between the 3d and the 4th of February can be called a splash of euphoria when thousands of citizens and guests of Catania come to the square to meet St. Agatha. St. Agatha’s statue, decorated with precious stones is carried out of the temple on a special silver carriage, which is called “fercolo” in Catania. The citizens commemorate St. Agatha and celebrate the event the whole night.

Next day St. Agatha’s carriage and the festive procession travel along Catania: under the arches of Via Dusmet and Via Biscari, where according to a legend St. Agatha was born. The route is from Carlo Alberto Square to Stesicaro Square. The most exciting and dramatic moment of this procession is when thousands of St. Agatha’s worshippers are running up the hill with a heavy carriage (it weights several tons). They stop only once to bow before the holy place that is the prison where St. Agatha spent her martyr days. In the evening the procession reaches Plebiscito and S. Cristoforo streets in the centre of the city. People continue celebrating the whole night. There are lots of people in numerous cafes there. Later under the flashes of fire-works St. Agatha comes back to the Church.

The crescendo or the culmination point of the festival starts on the 5th of February, when the high religious officials take part in the ceremony. The procession takes place on Via Etnea in the centre of the city. Eleven people, called “candeloro” because they carry candles, in luxurious costumes of the 17th century are at the head of the procession. People sing songs in honor of St. Agatha. In the evening all the people come to the Piazza Borgo where the most beautiful firework takes place.

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