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ST. AGATHA AND CATANIA: AN INDISSOLUBLE BOND

Three days of cult, devotion, folklore, and tradition, that stand almost alone in the world. Only the Holy Week in Seville, and tbe Corpus Domini ceremony in Cuzco, Peru, may be compared, in terms of popularity, to the festivities that since five centuries have immutably been held in St. Agathas honour. For three days, Catanians and tourists swarm in the streets, numbering to almost a million. During those intense days, Catania turns into one and only crowd marching behind the Patron.

The 4th and 5th of february stand out among the three days of festivities, when St. Agatha passes through then eigh bourhoods on her silver carriage (Catanians call it, specifically, "fercolo" or, more commonly, "vara").

Catania, brought back to life after every eruption of the Etna volcano, bas bestowed some of the most beautiful churches and monuments to the Patron. On the inside of S. Agata al Carcere, the III century remains of the gaol, where St. Agatha faced her martyrdom and death, are still to be seen.

The Church of S. Agata alla Fornace (in piazza Stesicoro) and S. Agata La Vetere (the first Cathedral of Catania, and supposedly the first burial-place of the Saint) are not far. Many other places in Catania keep alive the memory of St. Agatha: Badia S. Agata, the stele in piazza dei Martiri, the fountain in via Dusmet, the Norman-baroque Cathedral. Precious relics, as such as the bust and the casket bearing the signature of Di Bartolo, are preserved in the Basilica, but the real centre of the cult of St. Agatha is the Church of the Sacred Gaol. On the inside, besides the dark cell where the Saint was imprisoned, a lavic slabbearing St. Agatha's footprints can be seen. The prison, an embankment, was part of the buildings of the Roman praetorium, close to the residence of Quintianus, Agatha's persecutor.

Upon the high altar, a large panel dating back to 1588 and bearing Bernardino Niger's signature, portrays St. Agatha at the stake. Next to the Gaol, a highly revered lavic stone bears St. Agatha's footprints. A plaque of the XV century and portraying St. Agatha can be seen in the sacristy, besides memorial stones, bas-reliefs and an old epigraph: "Noli offendere patriam Aghatae, quia ultrix iniuratum est" (Do not offend Agathas nation, 'cause she will avenge all offences).



3rd february

4th february

5th february

"Candlemas"

S. Agata in the world