Sicily is famous for its religious processions: every town has a its own patron saint, its tradition and its peculiarity. Particularly, Palermo wouldn't be Palermo without its patron saint Rosalia, to whom people dedicate three days of July. Come and join me…
The climax is the so-called “Festino”, an untranslatable word that describes the night dedicated to Santa Rosalia, on July 14th.
Who was Rosalia?
She was a noble girl, living at King Ruggero Norman's court, who refused a combined marriage to dedicate her life to God. She retired in a convent and then – after her family tried to bring her back home from so far away – she moved first to a cavern near Bivona, then to Monte Pellegrino, in Palermo, where she died in 1165.
No one remembered the “rose without thorns” for so long, but in 1624 the plague invaded Palermo. A hunter dreamed on Rosalia who told him what to do to defeat the plague: going on Monte Pellegrino, find her human remains and bring them in procession through the city. And so it happened as described in his dream, and Santa Rosalia set Palermo free from plague.
This year was 388 edition of the Festino and, as usual, the procession begins with the play depicting the miracle, in front of the Cathedral, followed with a parade, bringing Santa Rosalia in front of the sea.
The main event is when the parade stops at the famous “Quattro Canti” in the heart of the historical city centre: Under the eyes of the former patron saints Santa Oliva, Santa Cristina, Sant'Agata and Santa Cecilia, thousands of people celebrate Santa Rosalia, crying out, “Viva Palermo e Santa Rosalia”.
This year I saw everything from a very special point of view: a balcony of an historical palace, one of the Quattro Canti themselves, where I also visited a special exhibition called “The Plague”. A kind of secret event to attend before the “santuzza” (that means little saint) arrived.
What a great sensation, seeing that the parade was made also by the “new citizen” of Palermo: people from Africa with traditional outfit, Tamil people that built a fake elephant to show their devotion... Dedicated to who has had a miracle in their lives because of the Festino: teachers, volounteers, youth fighting against mafia, all together, looking at the magnificent video-show with all the signs of real Sicily. Elegant but also willing to be born and reborn again, crying aloud “Viva palermo and Santa Rosalia”. Wonderful.
Each week Sicilian Girl will be giving us the chance to see more of the Sicilian way of life through her eyes and all you have to do is click below. Enjoy!