Saint Agatha's Procession of Catania

Saint Agatha's (Sant' Agata) Procession is one of the biggest processions in Italy. It is held between 3rd and 5th of February in the city of Catania located on the island of Sicily. Agatha lived in Sicily of the 3rd century AD. People of Catania are very devoted to their saint. When there is a danger of eruption from the nearby Mount Etna volcano locals carry statues of the saint to the mountain hoping that she will stop the flow of lava.

Saint Agatha
Saint Agatha

After the mass held at dawn of the 4th of February devotees put the statue of Saint Agatha on the silver carriage known as “fercolo”. Some 5,000 men pull the carriage up the very steep Via Sangiuliano (Saint Julius Street). The procession moves through various parts of the city. More than 1,000,000 people participate in the event. Some people carry big candles in beautiful candlesticks. These people are called “candelore”. City mayor and other city dignitaries move in nice horse-drawn carriages. Everything ends with a spectacular fireworks.

Fercolo
Fercolo

Saint Agatha is the patron saint of those who suffer from breast cancer. She is often depicted carrying her breasts on a plate. It is believed that during torture her breasts were cut off. According to this belief locals made special breast-shaped pastry called “Minni di Sant' Agata” (Saint Agatha's Breasts) or "Minni di Virgini" (Virgins' Breasts). Main ingredients are almond meal, chocolate chips, milk, flour, sugar, eggs and candied cherries. The saint influenced yet another local pastry. It is believed that while running away from Roman soldiers she ate olives. That is why people are making a pastry called “Olivette”. This olive-shaped pastry is made of marzipan.